Funding policy is starving local food industry, says Leader CEO

Kilkenny Leader Partnership has hit out at an EU policy that the agency says could result in a loss of 35 jobs in the local food industry.

Kilkenny Leader Partnership has hit out at an EU policy that the agency says could result in a loss of 35 jobs in the local food industry.

Leader CEO Declan Rice is calling on the Government to “reverse a bureaucratic blunder which has cost hundreds of jobs in the food sector in Ireland this year”. He said a ban on funding food projects had prevented Ireland’s 36 Leader companies from funding small food enterprises to the tune of millions of euros, leaving many food producers in limbo.

“Kilkenny Leader Partnership alone has had to turn away at least 17 micro-enterprises in the food sector this year. Between them they were seeking a total of €800,000 in investment. Very few of these companies have any other realistic prospect of funding support other than Leader and we estimate 35 jobs have been lost,” he said.

The suspension of funding was imposed after it emerged in January that Ireland and other EU countries were unwittingly breaking EU rules by funding food projects out of the wrong section of Common Agricultural Policy funds.

The matter is to be highlighted by Mr Rice at a food industry seminar this Friday in the Parade Tower of Kilkenny Castle to coincide with the opening of the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival.

Mr Rice said that food businesses consistently outperform other high-value sectors in creating sustainable jobs, and that no other rural enterprise offered the same opportunities for employment. “This funding crisis is disastrous for business development and job creation in Kilkenny and across Ireland,” he said.

Since launching the County Kilkenny Food Strategy ‘Growing a Local Food Economy’ at last year’s Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, Leader has been prevented from grant-aiding small food business that were identified as being key to the success of the strategy.