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At a meeting of IFA’s Horticulture Committee with Minister Pippa Hackett, IFA President Tim Cullinan called on the government to increase support to develop the horticulture sector. The sector is under-resourced in relation to investment, research and advisory services.

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IFA Grain Chairman Mark Browne said the continuing drought is having a severe impact on the tillage sector. Recent rains have been too little too late for many crops. At best, many growers will have significant yield reductions while in other situations, entire crops are a write-off.

“The situation is particularly critical right up through the midlands and into the east and northeast where growers, in some cases, have practically closed the gates on crops which may not be worth harvesting,” he said

The Chairman said that the combination of dry conditions and the reduction in winter crop plantings of over 40% are sure to result in a severe decrease of straw supply.

“It is estimated that barley straw availability will reduce by 300,000 tonnes and wheaten straw by 200,000 tonnes compared to last year. This is almost a 50% reduction in supply,” he said.

The IFA Grain Chairman is calling on merchants and feed mills to prioritise Irish grain and pay sustainable grain prices to Irish tillage farmers.

The import of cheap maize is compounding the current situation.

He said, “Quality assured Irish grain must not continue to be dictated by the price of third-country feedstuffs, which do not conform to the regulatory and environmental standards, demanded by the EU Commission and the Irish Government”.

“The Farm to Fork Strategy element of the European Green Deal is aiming to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly. There is nothing fair about targets in the Green Deal, which will increase the regulatory burden and undermine local tillage framers while continuing to allow access to non-EU feedstuffs produced to different standards,” said Mark Browne.

Finally, the IFA Chairman called on the new Government to support the tillage sector.

“They cannot ignore the strategic importance of the sector to the broader agricultural industry, and the critical role native grains play in Ireland’s food provenance credentials, in addition to its low carbon footprint. Irish tillage farmers were disproportionately affected by the current CAP due to convergence and greening measures; therefore, any further reduction in supports or increased regulation under CAP 2020 cannot be tolerated.”

 

IFA Horticulture Chairman Paul Brophy said the continuing drought is having a severe impact on the Irish field vegetable sector.

The Horticulture Chairman said, “Growers are already suffering financial losses due to yield reductions and lost crops. However, producers are also incurring considerable extra costs due to irrigation requirements. It costs €100/ac to irrigate a crop just once. Many crops need to be irrigated multiple times due to the continuation of dry weather conditions”.

He said retailers need to recognise that growers are going to extraordinary lengths and expense to manage crops and maintain supply to their customers.

“Retailers and facilitators must show solidarity and lend support at this challenging time. Vegetable specifications and farm gate prices need to be reviewed to reflect the current difficult farm business environment,” he said.

The spring and early summer have been characterised by unusual weather patterns.

For instance, north county Dublin received a total rainfall of 54mm for (March, April, May) compared to the 30-year average of 166mm.Current soil moisture deficits are now higher than 2018. Much of the east and midlands are now technically in drought.

Mr Brophy emphasised that IFA has consistently highlighted the need for increased farm gate prices for fresh produce.

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. Existing producer returns include no accommodation for natural yield reductions; the vagaries of the weather or input cost increases. This leaves no leeway for reinvestment in farm businesses”.

The IFA Chairman said that growers were already dealing with labour issues and extra costs due to Covid-19.

“Growers are now at tipping point due to the added pressure of the drought conditions,” he said.

 

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. Without some positive intervention from other members of the food supply chain, some farmers may not survive this season.

Finally, the IFA Chairman urged consumers to support growers through this difficult phase by looking for Irish country of origin and the Bord Bia Quality Assurance mark when buying fresh produce.

 

IFA National Grain Chairman Mark Browne has welcomed the decision by the Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan to revoke the initial Wild Birds State Wide Declaration for the period 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2021.

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 – IRISH SOFT FRUIT INDUSTRY VALUED AT NEARLY €50M

 IFA President Tim Cullinan has urged 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.

Roadside sales are expected to commence this weekend. Growers have put measures in place in ensure the safety of all staff and customers. Consumers are encouraged to support local trade at this difficult time.

‘Celebrate Strawberry Week’ is run by Bord Bia and the Irish Soft Fruit Growers Association, in conjunction with IFA.

“Irish growers produce top-class produce year on year, with production expected to surpass 8,000 tonnes this year. Over 1,000 people are now employed in the industry and the total retail market is valued at €91m. This exceeds €100m when roadside sales are included,” he said.

“This season is one of the most difficult on record for strawberry growers. Not only are growers contending with the usual issues such as rising input costs and lower margins, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to serious issues with labour on farms.”

IFA Soft Fruit Chairman Jimmy Kearns said, “The current situation has posed a particular problem for strawberry growers.  Unfortunately, we cannot shut our gates until the situation improves. In ‘normal’ years, labour accounts for over 50% of input costs in the soft fruit industry. It will be far higher this year and retailers must recognise this”.

Jimmy Kearns reminded consumers that Irish strawberry growers adhere to voluntary quality assurance schemes, with the highest standards of traceability, food hygiene, workers’ rights and sustainability. However, he said this compliance creates an increasing financial burden on primary producers, which is not recognised by retailers.

This year’s campaign urges consumers to replace refined sugars with strawberries as a natural and healthy alternative. It highlights how a single serving of strawberries provides 100% of an adult’s daily vitamin C requirement. Strawberries are packed with many nutritional benefits.  More than ever, people are turning to fresh, local produce in order to support their health and wellbeing.

Lorcan Bourke, Fresh Produce Manager Bord Bia said, “Recent research by Kantar Worldpanel shows that Irish households spend €120m per annum on fresh strawberries. In the past five years, both the volume and the value of strawberry sales have grown by 50%, showing the increase in popularity of this household favourite fruit. Thankfully, we have a strong supply of locally-grown strawberries available throughout Ireland”.


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