IFA President Joe Healy has welcomed Minister for Horticulture, Andrew Doyle’s commitment to establish a Horticulture Industry Forum, which would bring all stakeholders in the industry together – food and amenity – to address the challenges and issues facing this very important sector, worth over €400m annually at farm gate.
“The Horticulture Industry must be protected and supported by the Government, and bringing together all the industry players under the guidance of the Minister and his officials will set out a clear strategy for the industry going forward,” the IFA President said.
At a recent meeting with Minister Doyle, the IFA Horticulture Chairmen outlined the various issues in their sectors – potatoes, field vegetables and protected crops, soft fruits, mushrooms and nursery stock – and the constant threat to their industries by the dominance of the retail sector. The IFA Chairmen called on the Minister to ensure the Government oversees the enforcement of the new regulations by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CPCC).
Mr Healy said, “Farmers need contracts that are effective, their complaints must be investigated, and any offenses against the regulations prosecuted. Retailers must be aware that they will be held to account, and farmers need to know the regulations to protect suppliers are being enforced.”
IFA Potato Chairman Eddie Doyle said, “The existing grocery goods legislation does not go far enough as it does not address the practice by retailers of below-cost selling and does not provide for an Independent Retail Ombudsman to oversee the enforcement of the new Regulations.”
IFA Mushroom Chairman Gerry Reilly outlined to the Minister the implications for the mushroom sector from Brexit and the weakening of Sterling. IFA has proposed to the Minister practical measures that the Government can act on to address the short-term impact of the exchange rate volatility, which include, implementing the exceptional State Aid measure allowing for a provision of short term loans to cater for liquidity gaps (EU Ag Council Minsters 14 March 2016). Along with Dairy and Pigment, this also applies to the Fruit & Vegetable Sector.
“This measure must be fully utilised to support the mushroom producers in addition to all other sectors,” said Mr Reilly.
The IFA delegation included Horticulture and Mushroom Chairman Gerry Reilly, Potato Chairman Eddie Doyle, Soft Fruit Chairman Jimmy Kearns, Nurseries Chairman Val Farrell and Vegetable Growers Chairman Paul Brophy.
On Budget 2017, IFA sought increased funding under the 2017 Scheme of Investment for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector. On amenity horticulture, IFA sought support for wholesale nurseries with stocks of Ash trees restricted by the Ash Dieback suspension.