Retail demand remains buoyant over the Easter period as consumers dined at home. The food service sector remains somewhat operational on a take-out basis.
There are continued reports that that over-wintered crops particularly broccoli and cabbage has experienced significant damage due to extremely wet conditions and frost over the past month. This coupled with exceptional retail demand and high specs is a major challenge for growers. Retails must understand the effect that variable Irish weather conditions have on crops and work with growers on specified weights and specs.
More clement weather has allowed for field works to begin ahead of plantings. Depending on your market outlet and crops, some growers have seen extra sales, however, labour issues and the failure by retailers to acknowledge the extra costs associated with the pandemic, have negated any positives.
Labour issues continue to be the biggest challenge for growers in all sectors. There are the issues associated directly with Covid on farms and also the availability of labour. Unemployment levels have risen since the arrival of COVID-19 19, however, none of the agricultural sectors have noticed any appreciable rise in suitable applicants for advertised positions.
Activity since last National Council
- IFA continued to engage with retailers to discuss the upcoming season and convey growers crop losses due to weather conditions and increased input costs in relation to employment, inputs and the pandemic.
- IFA wrote to Minister Charlie McConalogue outlining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on horticultural producers and asked for measures to be addressed namely; that horticultural workers are classified as essential workers in EU policy; that mandatory quarantine for seasonal workers remains as ‘self-quarantining’, that garden centres be allowed to reopen in early April or at the very minimum a click and collect service can be operated and that direct financial support should be put in place for the ornamental and potato sectors similar to the scheme applied in Northern Ireland in response to the pandemic.
- IFA held an Employment Seminar for the Horticulture Sector on March 31st at which the new IFA Employment Service was launched. Guest speakers included James Staines, Staines Law, Jerome Forde, Hr Duo and Stewart Gavin FBD. More information on the IFA Employment Service can be found on https://www.ifa.ie/employment-law-resources-for-ifa-members/
- On peat, IFA continue to lobby for growers at Irish government and European level.
- The new Peat Use in Horticulture Consultation Group has met twice since it was established last month. IFA has member representatives from the nursery stock and mushroom committees.
- The Irish Hardy Nursery Stock Association (IHNSA) which is affiliated to IFA, continue to work on the Green Cities Promotions along with Bord Bia. The promotion is 80% funded from the E.U. and will help to promote the greening of public spaces using Irish grown plants.
- IFA held an information evening on the reopening of the Organic Farm Scheme on Thursday the 4th of March. Guest speakers from DAFM, Teagasc, IOA and the Organic Trust presented on the night.
- Bord Bia in conjunction with the IHNSA/IFA will held a virtual plant fair in on the 9th of March.
- IFA continued to engage with government to ensure that horticulture workers can continue to be allowed into Ireland in accordance with EU guidelines.
- An amalgamated IFA field Vegetable and Protected Crops and Soft Fruit Committee meeting was held on the 10th of March. The main agenda items were labour, peat harvesting and the upcoming season.
- Given the importance of gardening to mental health and the perishable nature of plants, IFA are campaigning to get Garden centres reopened as soon as possible.
- A mushroom committee meeting was held on 24th of March. The main agenda items included peat harvesting, labour and markets.
- There are ongoing discussions with Lidl and Bord Bia in relation to Global Gap quality assurance.
- IFA met with DAFM Pesticide Control Division to discuss the use and authorisation of various pesticides.
- IFA made a submission for the reapproval of creosote at EU level. Creosote is of critical importance to the Irish top fruit sector of which apple production is the primary subsector.
- IFA led a campaign against the branding policy by retailers. They are using their own brands to drive down the prices they pay to their suppliers. These brands displace well-established ones that return a higher margin to farmers.
- IFA has continued contact with both the EU Commission and COPA in relation to the impact of COVID-19 19 on the Horticulture sector.
- Lobbying will continue regarding the new CAP particularly in relation to the increased demands for environmental actions within the operational plans for PO’s.
Upcoming Events / Issues
- Meetings will continue with retailers regarding the issues arising as a result of input cost increases, Covid 19 etc and to ensure Irish produce is stocked ahead of imports.
- IFA will meet with Bord na Mona again on April 14th as a follow on from previous meetings and to ensure that growers have access to peat from the company for as long as possible.
- The organic farm scheme is open until April 31st. Any interested growers/farmers are encouraged to make an application.
- IFA will continue to lobby for essential seasonal workers to be allowed into Ireland for the harvest period and monitor testing and quarantine measures.
- IFA will continue its lobbying campaign in relation to the harvesting of peat for the horticultural sector.
- The campaign on the reopening of the Work Permit Scheme will continue.
- During the recent lockdown, garden centres were again forced to close. IFA will continue to campaign for the selling of plants to be considered an essential service as it contributes to positive physical and mental wellbeing particularly in the domestic setting. IFA engaged with European counterparts at a recent ENA meeting.
- IFA will be lobbying to include the sectors of horticulture affected by Brexit in the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund announced by the EU.
- The Department of Social Protection and EURES Ireland, with the support of the European Commission, is organising a European Online Jobs Day for the Horticulture sector in Ireland on April 22nd. IFA are involved in the operations of the day and encourage all horticultural employers to register.
- IFA continues to engage with DAFM on approvals for the Horticulture Grant Scheme. The first should have been issued last week and will continue to roll-out throughout April.
|Paul Brophy |
|Niamh Brennan |
|Patrick Farrell |
Senior Policy Executive