IFA Horticulture Chairman Paul Brophy is calling on retailers, facilitators and the foodservice sector to support vegetable producers who are currently facing an income crisis due to a combination of atypical weather, rising input costs, and labour issues.
He said an urgent review of farm gate prices is needed to reflect the current farm business environment. The situation is most acute in the outdoor field vegetable sector.
Paul Brophy said, “The spring and early summer have been characterised by unusual weather patterns. Growers firstly endured the difficult and late sowing conditions in spring and they are now dealing with very dry conditions. This will result in financial loss from yield reductions but producers are also incurring considerable extra costs in trying to alleviate the worst effects of the current lack of rainfall. Many areas in the east and south-east have received little or no rain for the last eight weeks and it looks as if there will be no respite over the coming days.”
The IFA Chairman added that these tough weather conditions have coincided with an increase in input prices across the board this year, including significant increases in labour, insurance, land rental, diesel and quality assurance costs.
Mr Brophy emphasised that IFA is on the record in consistently flagging the inevitability of this income crisis. He said, “Continuing unfair trading practices among the retailers such as, below cost selling, unsustainable discounting and tendering have resulted in untenable farm gate prices. Growers have limped along with poor returns and survived only due to exceptional yields and recent seasons of benign weather. Existing producer returns include no accommodation for natural yield reductions; the vagaries of the weather or input cost increases and leave no leeway for reinvestment in farm businesses.”
The Horticulture chairman said that IFA is currently in the process of meeting retailers and facilitators to explain the seriousness of the situation. Many of these field vegetable businesses have already lost crops to the elements and without some positive intervention from businesses at the end of the fresh produce supply chain these farmers may not survive this season.
Mr Brophy concluded by reminding retailers. that as members of the Bord Bia Origin Green Scheme it is incumbent on them to ensure economic sustainability for the primary producer. Growers supplying them with top quality fresh produce are also members of Origin Green, and he called on them to show solidarity and lend support at this difficult time.