Marking the start of ‘Celebrate Strawberry Season’, IFA President Joe Healy has called on consumers and retailers to support the Irish strawberry sector – a vital indigenous industry worth €47m at farm gate, with 57 growers producing over 8,000 tonnes annually.
Joe Healy said, “Soft fruit producers have endured an extremely difficult period over recent months. The cumulative impact of crop losses and structural damage resulting from storms Ophelia and Emma have cost the sector over €2 million euros. The impact of these weather events has been compounded by the ongoing labour issues, and the simultaneous increase in virtually all input costs across all businesses.”
Joe Healy reminded consumers that Irish strawberry growers adhere to voluntary quality assurance schemes, which ensure the highest standards on traceability, food hygiene, workers’ rights and sustainability. However, he said, this compliance creates an increasing financial burden on primary producers, which is not currently being recognised by retailers.
“Sales of fruit continue to increase in volume year on year but, it is critical that strawberries are treated as a premium product and not devalued in the eyes of the consumer,” Joe Healy said.
“Although Irish strawberries are synonymous with the Irish summer, growers have made sizable investments on their farms to extend the production season beyond the summer months. Fresh fruit is now available to the Irish consumer from April right through to November, in an industry that accounts for 1,000 rural jobs
“The Irish season has been delayed by up to three weeks this year but growers are now nearing peak production.”
Buying Irish strawberries means that, as well as supporting a locally grown product and local industry, consumers also benefit from the nutritional and health benefits of strawberries. They are a versatile fruit, which are naturally high in vitamins C and K as well as a good source of fibre, folic acid and phytonutrients known as anthocyanins (which give strawberries their vibrant red colour).
Check the origin
The IFA President urged cconsumers to check for country of origin when buying fruit and to support Irish production.
He said, “IFA is actively involved in the monitoring of proper labelling of fruit both on retail shelves and in roadside sales. Only by regular monitoring and reporting of issues to the Department of Agriculture can a resolution to non-identifiable produce be achieved,” Joe Healy said.
Celebrate Strawberry Season will run from May 30 for six-weeks. Consumers can keep an eye out for ‘Celebrate Strawberry Season’ promotional packs in stores and visit www.bestinseason.ie for tasty strawberry recipes.