Agri-Food Co-operation Scheme (AFCS)

The Agri-Food Co-operation Scheme (AFCS) is a new scheme which will be funded through the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme.

The Agri-Food Co-operation Scheme (AFCS) is now closed for applications

The aim of the AFCS

The aim of the scheme is to reduce fragmentation and improve competitiveness and sustainability within the agri-food sector. It will facilitate groups (where the lead applicant is a primary producer) to do this by helping to:

  • access improved market information / knowledge flow - allowing producers to make more robust production decisions, and to become more responsive to changing market conditions
  • acquire and /share new knowledge and skills to introduce novel practices / processes - to improve resource efficiency
  • improve product specification, consistency and marketing to add additional value to NI agricultural and horticultural produce (including setting up and promoting food tourism initiatives that are consistent with Tourism NI strategy)

How will the scheme work?

The scheme provides a range of support tools which can be tailored to meet the needs of a group. This includes:

  • facilitation and mentoring support to help develop the group and project idea and provide support through the implementation phase
  • training to provide group members with the knowledge and skills to help implement their project
  • study visits to look at new approaches and ideas and learn from best practice elsewhere
  • market research and market information to provide a more focused approach to addressing market requirements
  • business tools to help the functioning of the group


The scheme is focused on securing benefit for the agri-food production sector. The lead applicant should be from the NI agricultural or horticultural production sector.

  • the project must deal with products whose main components must already be, or could be, produced in Northern Ireland
  • a group must have a minimum of two entities
  • support can be allocated to new or existing groups. However, for support to be granted to an existing group, it must be to develop a business plan for a new joint project
  • the scheme will only support plans for projects which involve innovative/unique characteristics, with low displacement implications and the potential to add net benefits to the Northern Ireland economy

Important information

The scheme will not accept applications from fisheries or aquaculture businesses, forestry businesses, or from businesses where output is for the energy market.

How to apply

This scheme is being delivered for DAERA by Countryside Services Ltd (CSL)

There is a two stage application process.

The first stage requires you to submit a short expression of interest form. Eligible applications will be provided up to 5 days facilitation support to further progress the idea and develop a full (second stage) application for the scheme. This will also include a business plan.

Where can I find out more information?

For more information on the Agri-Food Co-operation Scheme, contact CSL via their website, e-mail, or call 028 877 88207.

State Aid

Aid under Sub-Measures 16.3 and 16.4 may constitute State aid within the meaning of Articles 107 to 109 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.  Where this is the case State aid will be paid in accordance with de minimis Regulation (EC) No 1407/2013 at 100% of all eligible costs and limited to a maximum of €200,000 over any period of three fiscal years or paid in accordance with the following block exemption regulations:

Innovation Aid for SMEs

Aid will comply with Article 28 of Regulation (EU) 651/2014. The aid intensity shall not exceed 50 % of the eligible costs. However, in the particular case of aid for innovation, advisory and support services, the aid intensity can be increased up to 100 % of the eligible costs provided that the total amount of aid for innovation advisory, and support services does not exceed €200 000 per undertaking within any three year period.

Aid for Process and Organisational Innovation

Aid will comply with Article 29 of Regulation (EU) 651/2014. The aid intensity shall not exceed 15 % of the eligible costs for large undertakings and 50 % of the eligible costs for SMEs.

Letters of Offer will detail whether State aid has been granted.

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