Thursday, 8 December 2005
Department of Agriculture and Food
Question 16: To ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will liaise with the appropriate local authorities to encourage urban dwellers to use some of their garden space to grow produce; if the supports to ensure that the growers have access to seeds and polytunnels will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38385/05]
Public interest in all aspects of gardening is widening all the time and the annual value of the Irish amenity and gardening market is estimated to be worth as much as €450 million. Any initiatives to encourage greater gardening activity and increased consumption of fruit and vegetables are welcome, on the basis of their contribution to good physical and mental health as well as on the economic level.
That said, the mission of my Department is to contribute to the development of a competitive commercial horticulture and potato sector and the highest food safety and phytosanitary standards. The schemes administered by the Department ensure that seeds and plants, pesticides and fertilisers on sale to the public meet the highest EU specifications.
My Department is also participating in the funding of a €100,000 programme to promote, inter alia, public awareness of garden related issues and to improve the availability of quality information for the novice gardener. The programme is being managed by Bord Bia and will be 50% funded by the European Commission, 20% funded by the Department and 30% funded by trade interests. In order to encourage gardening among the target audience — women aged between 35 and 55, and new home owners — Bord Bia has prepared 20 user-friendly gardening leaflets covering a wide range of topics and designed to encourage novice gardeners to increase gardening activities. Over 400,000 leaflets are currently being distributed to garden centres throughout the country.