IFA Field Vegetable and Protected Crops Vice Chairman Martin Flynn said the Govt aid package for horticulture is a positive step, but soft fruit growers have been excluded.
“The package falls short of what is needed, given the huge input surge in the sector. In addition, it appears soft fruit growers have been inexplicably excluded,” he said.
“Soft fruit growers do not appear to be included and IFA is looking for clarity on this. The soft fruit sector is worth approx. €51m at farm gate. The producers are struggling with the same level of inflationary input costs as all other sectors. They must be included for funding under the proposed scheme,” he said.
The protected crop sector has encountered a five-fold increase in energy costs in recent months. Across all horticulture sub-sectors, there has been a sharp increase in the cost of labour, packaging materials, fertiliser, energy, peat-based growing media and other inputs that are essential elements of production.
According to the recently published report by economist Jim Power, commissioned by the IFA, the number of growers has fallen by 60%.
“Given the spiralling costs, without adequate support producers are facing hugely significant decreases in margins which cannot be recouped by price increases alone. Growers have already cut back on production for 2022 to manage cashflow. This is likely to continue unless substantial headway is made in terms of funding. Retailers must also continue to negotiate increased costs with growers” he said.
The importance and potential of horticulture is recognised in the programme for Government, but if proper supports are not given to the sector, the plans will not materialise and a considerable opportunity will be lost for rural Ireland.