IFA Soft Fruit Chairman Jimmy Kearns said the opening of the Horticulture Exceptional Aid Package is positive, but the exclusion of soft fruit growers is unacceptable.
The fact that vegetable growers’ applications appear to be based on land declared in BPS application, will exclude up to 80% of land farmed by larger progressive growers who operate share farming arrangements with landowners (rent the majority of their land). This needs to be re visited.
Jimmy Kearns said, inexplicably, soft fruit growers remain excluded. IFA raised this when the scheme was first announced back in April. Soft fruit growers are combatting the same input costs as all other horticultural growers and those with heated glass even more so.
“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. The package falls short of what is needed, given the huge cost surge,” he said.
“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 and consolidators in the supply chain must also continue to engage with suppliers and play their part in preventing growers going out of business in 2022. This must involve significant increases in wholesale prices paid back to cover growers’ increased costs,” he said.
The support measure of €2.8m will be funded from Ireland’s allocation for exceptional adjustment aid to producers in agricultural sectors which have been impacted by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
Payment rates have yet to be set and will depend on the numbers applying. Applications to the scheme can be made until June 17th.