The Scottish government has extended the Fruit and Vegetable Aid Scheme for a further two years.

The EU scheme enables officially recognised Producer Organisations, formed on the initiative of a group of growers, to receive financial assistance to help increase their competitiveness in the supply chain. 

The Scottish government has allocated up to £6 million in funding for these two extended years, of which Scottish Borders Produce (SBP), East of Scotland Growers and Angus Growers will all receive a share.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said she hopes that this extension can provide “much-needed stability and security to the sector over the next two years”.

“Supporting our local fruit and vegetable growers is crucial,” she said.

“To make fresh, local produce more readily available in local shops, to support jobs in the agricultural sector and to increase our food security as a nation.

“I know that the sector continues to deal with a range of significant challenges and is one of those most acutely affected by Brexit which has caused unnecessary and unhelpful seasonal labour shortages.

“Most recently, water scarcity has created problems too in some areas, while every part of farming is still having to meet increased costs for supply inputs and energy.”

“Continuing this support has arguably never been more important. 

“Meanwhile, the Scottish Government will continue to work on giving greater certainty on multi-year funding longer term,” she said.

SBP company secretary Brian Aitchison said the co-operative is “grateful” for the extension.

“As a farmer’s co-operative we continuously work towards spreading crop yield variances and financial risks. The funding extension provides extra stability in a difficult growing environment,” he said.

“We continue to attract new members who appreciate the co-operative business model, and this funding helps sustain that co-operation.

“It is wonderful and re-assuring to see this funding continue for the next two years and hopefully well beyond that.”