Marking Celebrate Strawberry Week, which runs next week (5-11June), IFA President Joe Healy has called on retailers to recognise the investment made by Irish strawberry and soft fruit growers, by ensuring that fresh fruit is seen on retail shelves as a premium quality product.
Joe Healy said, each year Ireland’s 100 strawberry growers produce a crop worth €45million at the farm gate, with production expected to surpass 8,000 tonnes this year. When road sales of strawberries are included the annual retail value of the industry exceeds €100million.
The IFA President said, “Although Irish strawberries are synonymous with the Irish summer, growers have made sizable investments on their farms to extend the production season. 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.
“Due to poor light levels and the cool spring, the Irish season was delayed slightly this year, however, growers are now at peak production. Sales of fruit are growing in volume but there is ongoing concern at the decline in the value of the crop as a result of pressure from retailers.
“Consumer demand continues to expand for strawberries, however growers are fearful for their futures due to the escalation of input costs. The recent increase in wage costs is very significant in this labour-intensive industry where labour accounts for almost 50% of the costs of production. Sourcing of suitable labour, particularly for the picking of strawberries, is also now proving a problem due to the availability of other employment opportunities in the economy. To remain competitive, Irish growers will rely on support from government and the wider supply chain,” Joe Healy said.
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 road-side sales. Only by regular monitoring and reporting of issues to the Department of Agriculture can a resolution to non-identifiable produce be achieved,”
Celebrate Strawberry Week runs from the 5th to 11th of June.