HUNDREDS of projects boosting the rural economy, enhancing biodiversity and improving food sector resilience throughout Wales will be backed by a £106m financial investment for the next three years.
Key schemes which underpin Wales’ rural economy, biodiversity and environmental priorities are to receive further, continued support following a Welsh Government announcement to increase existing funding, providing reassurance to vital schemes as they look to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
A number of new schemes will also be developed in response to the pandemic and other challenges such as the UK’s imminent EU exit.
Those projects supported by the increased investment will include those dealing with a range of Welsh Government priorities, including:
Woodland creation and restoration
Building resilience into Wales’ natural resources and improving biodiversity,
Helping food businesses to improve their supply chains, business resilience
Supporting farm businesses to help ensure their sustainability
Delivering food and drink sector Covid-19 Recovery Strategy.
Investments will also be made across a variety of schemes linked to the sustainable management of Wales’ natural resources, responding to the climate emergency and reversing the decline in biodiversity.
The schemes will be funded through a combination of the EU Rural Development Programme 2014-20 (RDP), and from the Welsh Government’s own funds.
The Minister unveiled new funding following a visit to ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University yesterday (Monday, September 7).
ZERO2FIVE is one three Food Innovation Wales centres located across Wales which deliver Project HELIX, an existing beneficiary of RDP funding which provides technical, strategic and commercial support to Welsh food and drink companies to improve their efficiency, reduce waste and raise their environmental performance.
The Minister said: “This major investment from Welsh Government and the EU Rural Development Program will provide vital support to our rural economy and natural environment over the next three years. This long term commitment shows how government will support businesses and communities to boost employment and environmental sustainability, providing assurance and helping our partners to plan.
“The impact on our rural communities of the intense storm events earlier this year and then the Covid-19 pandemic has been immense. Welsh Government has provided immediate support through the Economic Resilience Fund, unique to Wales, as well as a series of targeted schemes. The announcement today sets out some of the funding we will make available for rural development not just in the immediate future, but for the next three years.
“Whilst the rural economy of Wales faces many challenges we have many assets and opportunities on which we can build – from our spectacular natural heritage to the thriving food and drink sectors. This investment from the Welsh Government and the European Union will build on those strengths to support jobs and innovation in the rural economy in a way that safeguards our natural environment for future generations.”
Professor David Lloyd, of Food Innovation Wales said: “As our work is so closely focused on providing the resources and support Welsh businesses need, we welcome today’s announcement of the increase in RDP funding, with funding to continue for the next three years.
“We have continued to engage with a variety of businesses throughout this challenging time – given the impact many of them have suffered as a result of the recent pandemic, I am sure they will welcome the long-term support which the increase in RDP and Welsh Government funding will provide.
“Project HELIX will continue to provide vital support to Welsh businesses as they look to develop new products, cut back on waste and gain internationally-recognised certification.
Huw Thomas, Managing Director at Puffin Foods, said: “Having received support through RDP via the Food Business Investment Scheme (FBIS) and Project HELIX in the past, we are very pleased to see that the Welsh Government has announced further funding to rural, food and environmental schemes.
“Recent times have hit the food and produce sector especially hard – this announcement will go some way into providing a level of much-needed reassurance to businesses across Wales.”