The new Grant Aid Scheme for the development of the organic off-farm processing sector has been opened.

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Tom Hayes announced the opening of the new scheme, which is wholly exchequer-funded, runs for the lifetime of the Rural Development Programme and will support investments for off-farm projects.

Processors can apply for grants of up to €500,000 for investment in facilities for the processing, preparation, grading, packing and storage of organic products with minimum level of investment in excess of €3,000.

Some €5m has been earmarked for the new scheme over its lifetime.

“I am committed to developing the organic sector as an opportunity for the Irish agri-food sector in general and this Scheme is a further initiative to help existing organic processors meet the growing demand for organic food, both in Ireland and abroad.”

He said that substantial support for organic farmers already exists through the new TAMS Organic Capital Investment Scheme and this new off-farm scheme now offers similar support for the organic processing sector.

Copies of the terms and conditions of the new Grant Scheme, together with application forms, are available from the Organic Farming Unit, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Johnstown Castle, Wexford.