Drought Conditions Place Huge Pressure on Vegetable Growers

IFA President Joe Healy has welcomed the Teagasc report which quantifies the impact of the continuing drought on the Irish field vegetable sector. The report concludes that at best, growers have significant yield reductions while in other situations entire crops have perished.

It also details the extra financial costs incurred from irrigation etc.as growers battle to save crops. These findings confirm the need for retailers and facilitators to urgently review farm gate prices across all field vegetable lines as called for by IFA in recent weeks. The farm leader emphasised that farmers were now at financial and mental breaking point. Without positive intervention from the other players, this indigenous sector will not survive.

IFA Horticulture Chairman Paul Brophy said, “The country’s prolonged drought spell is having devastating consequences for Irish field vegetable producers. Some parts of the country have received no significant rainfall for over 10 weeks. Before yesterday, the weather station in Dublin airport had recorded only 24mm of rain since May. This is an unprecedented spell with conditions surpassing the extreme drought of 1976. Growers have gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain some level of supply to their customers. This commitment has entailed a financial burden which their businesses just cannot absorb or sustain.”

Paul Brophy also added that this year has been a perfect storm for this fresh produce sector as they have already had to deal with the snows of Storm Emma followed by a wet cold spring which delayed and adversely affected the establishment of crops. The weather conditions were also compounded by a major increase in all inputs costs.

Mr Brophy emphasised that IFA is on the record as consistently flagging the inability of growers to survive even a minor crisis due to the continuation of unfair trading practices (UTPs) by retailers and the lack of government action on the issue. UTPs such as below cost selling, unsustainable discounting and tendering have resulted in untenable farm gate prices. Growers have limped along with poor returns and survived only due to exceptional yields and recent seasons of benign weather. Existing producer returns include no accommodation for natural yield reductions; the vagaries of the weather or input cost increases and leave no leeway for reinvestment in farm businesses.”

Finally, the IFA Chairman urged consumers to support growers through this difficult phase by looking for Irish country of origin and the Bord Bia Quality Assurance mark when buying fresh produce.

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