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Nursery sector still without aid following Storm Ophelia

Some extent of the damage caused by Storm Ophelia -
 destroyed Ornamental Pears. Photo: John Murphy.
Some extent of the damage caused by Storm Ophelia - destroyed Ornamental Pears. Photo: John Murphy.

There is still no support available for Irish nursery growers from the government, despite the extent of damage caused by Ophelia - the most powerful hurricane to have ever been this far east in the Atlantic on record, according to Met Éireann.

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9 November 2017 | 0

As part of it’s investigation into the damage caused by Storm Ophelia, Growtrade.ie spoke with the owner of one of Ireland’s largest nurseries – John Murphy of Annaveigh Plants.

Murphy was told by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that there were “no funds available” to them to help with the recovery from Storm Ophelia and this situation remains the same.

On Friday October 20, four days after Storm Ophelia made landfall, Murphy detailed the following costs to the Minister of State for Food, Forestry, and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle :

  • €20,000 worth of new bamboo canes were purchased with money taken from our fund for planting – so less production in the coming year when we should be upping our output to match a growing demand as the economy recovers.
  • So far destroyed, an estimated €19,500 worth of broken stock which represents 3 areas out of 26. We expect this figure to be in excess of €120,000.
  • Eight extra part-time staff starting on Monday who are available for at least a week but we will need a lot more labour than that. Cost for a week approximately €11,256.
  • All 16 of our outside staff have been involved in clean up operations for four days at a cost of €9,638. They all should be involved in getting ready for our busy period which begins next week. All are working the whole weekend at a cost of €8,400 – All payments can be examined.

A briefing note was dispatched by the department on “Storm Ophelia and the Horticulture Sector” where it discussed: The Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector (IADCH), the IADCH Budget 2018 figure of €5m, the Brexit Loan Scheme, and the Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme.

The IADCH only applies to capital investments of new, specialised horticulture equipment and machinery and for Murphy and nursery growers alike, it “does not cover plants, canes etc.” which for the current situation makes the IADCH scheme inapplicable.

The Budget 2018 figure of €5m and competitive grant aid scheme is of no use to nursery growers who are trying to recover after the damage of Storm Ophelia.

The only scheme that has potential for nursery growers facing the possibility of further damage is the 2018 Commercial Horticulture Scheme which is expected to be released in the coming weeks. The priorities of the scheme will be informed by the current needs of the sector, but again, this is a capital government scheme and not emergency aid.

As far as readily available aid to assist nursery growers in Ireland goes, there is none. Irish nursery growers are facing tens of thousands of euros in costs in: clean-up efforts, destroyed stock, destroyed equipment, but also importantly- loss of potential revenue and growth.

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