Brexit poses very significant challenges for the agrifood sector in general but also for the mushroom sector, with the UK market accounting for around 90% of our annual production. The Irish Government’s position will continue to be to minimise the impact of Brexit on existing trade for all Irish exports, including mushrooms.
Support is currently provided by my Department and its State Agencies on a number of fronts.
The EU Producer Organisation Scheme is a vital support for the mushroom sector, with around 80% of Irish mushroom growers being members of a producer organisation at present. This scheme provides an important mechanism for growers to achieve greater bargaining power in the marketplace by becoming part of a larger supply base. In addition this scheme is funding a number of initiatives to improve mushroom grower competitiveness including Lean Training for mushroom growers. Indeed the concentration of supply through the Producer Organisation Scheme has allowed exporters in many cases to negotiate Sterling price rises from their UK customers in response to the weakening of Sterling.
The Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector continues to be the main support for individual growers in the horticulture industry including mushroom producers who wish to make capital investments in specialised equipment or buildings. Budget 2019 allocated an additional €1 million in funding bringing the total provision for a sector particularly challenged by Brexit to €6 million.
The new “Future Growth Loan Scheme” scheme which I launched recently will provide long term, unsecured investment finance for farmers and small scale companies in the food and seafood sectors. The loans will be competitively priced, will be for terms of 8-10 years and will support strategic long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment. There will be €50million to €60million available initially for farmers.
Bord Bia has commenced a 3-year mushroom promotion campaign on the Irish and UK markets. This campaign is co-funded by the industry and the European Commission. It is important to emphasise that the overall market for mushrooms in the UK and Ireland remains strong, showing good potential for further growth.