Ministers at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Rural and Community Development have issued a “final call” for applications under the LEADER Food Initiative.

The €5 million fund is aimed at assisting artisan, micro and small food businesses deal with the challenges of Brexit and Covid-19.

The LEADER programme is set to feature as a “key plank” of the new rural policy – ‘Our Rural Future’ – which was announced earlier this year and, for that reason, the programme was extended into 2021.

The maximum rate of aid available to projects involving economic activity was increased from 50% to 75% for project applications received on or after April 1.

Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys said today (Tuesday, May 25): “I am delighted to announce the final call for applications under LEADER Food Initiative. Our Rural Future outlined the importance of the agri-food sector for our country.

“This initiative is a key part of the government’s plans for our agriculture community, supporting artisan, micro and small food businesses – new or existing – to develop,” Minister Humphreys added.

She noted that some 116 projects have been approved to date. She encouraged local businesses who may qualify for funding to contact their local development company.

According to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, the funding will “help support farmers and food enterprises to develop premium, sustainable outlets for their products on the Irish market”.

“I hope that the increased maximum rates of aid will encourage these food businesses, who have shown great resilience during the past year, to apply for this funding support,” Minister McConalogue added.

Meanwhile, Minister for State for land use and biodiversity Pippa Hackett said: “The support will help local food enterprises to access advisory, investment and marketing support for those who wish to diversify into new products and to build efficient, sustainable routes to market that help connect small food producers to the consumer.”