An EU grant package for the Northern Ireland food and horticulture processing sector has been announced by agriculture minister Jeff Rooker.

The awards, totalling GBP3.03m (US$5.36m) from EU funds and GBP0.43m from Invest NI national funds, assist 13 projects submitted by Northern Ireland food and horticulture companies under the EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme. The scheme is designed to improve the economic performance and international competitiveness of the food processing sector.

"I am announcing a sixth round of awards under the EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme, which forms part of the Northern Ireland Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity," said the minister. "The projects assessed are of high calibre and link to fostering innovation and capability development as highlighted in the Food Strategy Report. These projects have the potential to benefit primary producers by strengthening local supply chains and create a further 146 new jobs as well as safeguarding the existing workforce."

The minister also advised that the EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme remains open for applications but is scheduled to close in 2006.