27/02/2006

Apple packing is hot topic for MacNeice Bros

Portadown company MacNeice Bros is one of 13 Northern Ireland food and horticulture companies to benefit from £3.46 million in grant aid from the EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme.

The apple-processing company has been awarded a grant of almost £203,000 to develop a preservative-free packaging process. The innovative process involves heat treating the fruit and packaging it in flexible pouches.

The grant award was announced recently by the Agriculture Minister, Jeff Rooker, who said that the projects to be supported would foster innovation and capability development, and strengthen local supply chains in the agri-food sector.

MacNeice Bros currently employs 20. The grant will allow it to upgrade plant and machinery and develop a product range that uses the new packaging process. This will give the company the opportunity to target the ‘additive conscious’ market sector.

William Magee, Invest Northern Ireland Client Executive, said: “To compete successfully, agri-food companies need to invest in innovative new products and innovative marketing techniques.

“This grant will help fund 40 per cent of MacNeice Bros’ new packaging process development and position it to increase sales by taking a market-led, customer focused approach, in keeping with the Food Strategy Report.”

The EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme is designed to improve the economic performance and international competitiveness of the food processing sector. It is administered by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in conjunction with Invest NI and is part of the Northern Ireland Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity.

The EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grants total £3.03 million from EU funds and £0.43 million from Invest NI national funds.

Grant aid under the EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme is at a rate of up to 40 per cent – comprising 35 per cent from the EU (subject to a maximum of £0.5 million) and 5 per cent from national funds.

The EU Agricultural Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme will close for applications in Spring 2006; a date will be announced in due course.

(SP/GB)

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