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Rural Affairs Minster Edwin Poots MLA has launched a £1million capital grant scheme to help existing micro food and drink manufacturing businesses upscale production, through the purchase of new equipment, with the aim of securing new markets for their products.

Under the scheme grants of between £5,000 and £50,000 are available for eligible businesses that are processing primary agricultural or horticultural produce to commence supplying to the retail or distribution industry; or to increase the quantity of products they are selling to the retail or distribution industry; or to grow sales outside of Northern Ireland.

Expressions of interest for the scheme will be accepted from 8 March 2021.Launching the scheme, Minister Poots said: “This £1million capital equipment grant fund I have launched today provides an opportunity for existing micro food and drink manufacturing businesses that are processing primary agricultural or horticultural produce to invest in new processing equipment, from a value of between £5,000 and £50,000, which will improve production efficiency, and importantly secure access to new markets and add value to local produce.

“It is essential that the projects funded under this scheme provide direct benefits to the Northern Ireland supply chain by improving commercial links between our food processors and the farmers and growers who produce the raw materials, particularly the local farmers and growers. I would encourage potential applicants to read the guidance notes online and if they feel they are eligible complete an expression of interest form or if necessary contact my Department with any eligibility queries before submitting the form.”

The Micro Food Business Investment Scheme Information booklet which details the priorities for the funding and the business and project eligibility criteria is on the DAERA website at: www.daera-ni.gov.uk/topics/grants-and-funding-rural-development/rural-development-grants. Micro food and drink manufacturers that are ready to upscale to access new markets are asked consider the scheme eligibility criteria carefully before starting to complete the expression of interest form which is available through the above link until 15 April 2021.