Martin Flynn, Vice Charman of the IFA Field Vegetable and Protected Crops Committee, said that current shortages of many horticulture food crops are a direct result of soaring input costs and of the imbalance of power in the food supply chain.
“This week marks one year on from the invasion of Ukraine. There is still huge concern around the outlook and the cost of input materials and energy costs. The price of gas is still four times higher compared to the average of the previous decade. The Horticultural Exceptional Payment Scheme (HEPS) did alleviate some pressure for certain horticultural sectors last year and this support must be put in place again this year,” he said.
The increased costs of growing all horticulture crops, compounded by the price pressure from food buyers, means that there is no room to account for events such as weather or input cost spikes.
“High energy prices have meant that growers cannot afford to heat glass in our sector for early crops. We are tired of hearing from Government that more Irish produce is required when we simply cannot afford to expand the shoulders of our season,” he said.
Martin Flynn said the imbalance of power in favour of the main retailers has driven margins for growers so tight that it’s inevitable the current shortages will become more common in the future. We welcome the progress of the Food Chain Bill through the Oireachtas, but on its own, it will not be enough to safeguard the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.
“It’s clear from the current shortages of vegetables from Spain and Holland that retailers cannot rely on imported produce. The first step that retailers must undertake is to listen to their grower suppliers of Irish produce,” he said.
All horticultural crops from glasshouse crops, strawberries, field vegetables and potatoes are in danger of further decline if changes are not made and support put in place.
Without retail and Government intervention, we will see more horticulture growers exiting food production and intermittent shortage of our food supply.