Fruit and Nut
|Grant Aid for Commercial Horticulture Projects|
New nut or fruit orchards may qualify for financial assistance under the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector (updated 28/08/20)
This scheme falls under the remit of the Irish National Development Plan. Nuts are listed among the categories of crops that are considered ‘horticultural’. The minimum investment that will be considered for grant aid is €10,000. Among the prerequisites is demonstration of the financial viability of the proposal. At the very least, applicants should have carried out market assessments and identified possible markets.
The level of grant aid is normally 40 percent (50 percent for young farmers). The grant can only be set against capital costs (nut trees, shelter trees, staking and protection) and labour involved in project establishment, but not on-going maintenance. The grant excludes VAT (not payable on nut trees but payable on shelter trees, stakes, animal guards, machinery hire etc).
The scheme potentially covers soft fruit such as blueberries, cranberries, aronia, all tree fruit (apples, plums, pears and cherries) and also nut trees. Recently we had an opportunity to discuss nut orchards with an official at the horticulture section at Teagasc, whose job it is to look at applications. He was very keen to stress that they are not against nut orchards per se. However, applicants are expected to have a realistic business plan and also demonstrate that they have the necessary skill and competence to run the business. This may require either gaining practical experience working on other nut farms or first starting a pilot nut project without grant assistance, and only applying for the grant when this is successfully up and running.
To date, no nut project has been funded and our assessment of the situation is that it won't happen any time soon. One specific criticism we have of the grant is that it excludes those at the smaller end of the commercial scale. An orchard of 400 cobnut trees - a big undertaking and without question a commercial scale enterprise - may not require a €10K spend to get up and running so would fall outside the remit of the grant.
A further impediment to obtaining grant assistance is the requirement that applicants be approved participants under the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Programme before grant money can be paid, which in practice may be difficult if not impossible to achieve given that the first nut harvest would be a number of years down the road. However it may work for the producer who already has a non-granted aided pilot scheme up and running, or who has other crops under production that have Bord Bia approval.
Making an application
Applications are taken on a year-by-year basis. Further details can be found in the link below or at www.agriculture.ie
The deadline for applications for each year is around mid January, with money to be spent by the end of September of that year (the grant money can only be drawn down after the full money is spent). Unfortunately the rather tight window between the application closing date and the deadline for having the money spent means that the trees would have to be planted by early April (the end of the barerooted planting season) of the year of the application, which in turn means the stock would have to be ordered/booked the previous summer/autumn, before the application was submitted (which would be outside the terms of the grant). Fruit and Nut is currently looking at how this apparent impasse might be resolved.
Our advice for people thinking of applying for the grant is make sure the business plan is credible, not just something hastily scribbled on the back of an envelope because one of your mates has told you the money is there for the taking, and get on to us at the earliest opportunity to discuss how trees might be reserved ahead of the application going in (owing to the high demand for cobnut trees, it's already too late to reserve trees for planting spring 2021).
Fruit and Nut can carry out site assessments, provide quotations for supply of orchard stock and for planting the trees, and various other supports.