Following an extremely difficult spring, a drought in early summer and extensive rainfall in July, this season has been very difficult for growers to date.
The planting season was prolonged due to this weather and growers then had to irrigate crops during the drought period. Crops were a minimum of 10 days behind schedule and we are now seeing gaps in production due to these sporadic growing conditions. Europe has been hit with extreme weather events also, which is hindering imports. We are now seeing supermarket shelves which are very sparse in fresh produce at this time as a result.
Such conditions this year should bring to light the value of domestic Irish production and the necessity to support Irish growers. Growers have seen unparalleled increases in key input prices, particularly those inputs linked to energy inflation during 2021 and early 2022, but all inputs have been impacted and have not abated. Growers have been negotiating with their consolidator or supermarket buyer for price increases over recent months with varying degrees of success.
Irish strawberries are now on supermarket shelves, quality is reported to be excellent. Light intensity levels have been very variable to date. This is similar for tomato and salad crops.
Increasing input costs continue to put growers under significant pressure such as labour shortages, transportation, packaging costs, fertiliser and energy costs. These increases are putting the viability of the sector under increased pressure. The Horticultural Exceptional Payment Scheme (HEPS) did alleviate some pressure for certain horticultural sectors last year and this support must be put in place again this year. IFA continues to lobby for a second HEPS scheme to be put in place. In conjunction with the unprecedented weather conditions, intervention to aid growers during this difficult time is fundamental to ensure that growers do not face closure and continue to supply our market.
Shortages within the sector are likely, with retailer power imbalance driving growers to tight margins and this is not sustainable for businesses to endure. Weather events on the continent has caused shortages of imports from Spain and Morocco, indicating how retailers cannot rely on importation of produce to secure their orders. Subsequently, retailers and packers must liaise with growers to ensure that this preventable situation does not continue to occur in the sector.
Activity since last National Council
- IFA in conjunction with DAFM held a Producer Organisation Information Event in the City North Hotel on June 6th.
- IFA horticulture delegation met with Senator Regina Doherty in Kinsealy, Co. Dublin on the 9th of June. Issues including retail price compression, labour challenges and peat were discussed.
- IFA met with the designate Food Regulator Niamh Lenehan last month. It was a constructive meeting in which members detailed their concerns for respective sectors.
- IFA issued a press statement looking for farm workers to be included in the critical skills Occupations list. IFA will put forward a submission to the public consultation on this topic. https://www.ifa.ie/campaigns/ifa-looking-for-farm-workers-to-be-included-in-critical-skills-occupation-list/
- IFA addressed the Joint Oireachtas Committee on June 28th on the topic of ‘consolidation of horticulture numbers in Ireland’. More details can be found https://www.ifa.ie/farm-sectors/radical-changes-needed-to-save-horticultural-sector/
- IFA attended a meeting with Bord Bia on the new EU Fruit and Vegetable promotion. Activities are ongoing online via all social media platforms.
- IFA continues to liaise with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on processing work permits and the establishment of a seasonal work permit scheme.
- Green Cities Promotions activities continue as part of the European funded initiative. The campaign that aims to promote green landscaping in urban areas and buildings in Ireland, while encouraging the use of locally-grown planting stock. The promotion is 80% funded from the E.U. with 20% coming from the industry. Growers have been sent invoices for participation of this campaign which has been well received thus far.
- John Curran IFA Chairman of Organic Project team attended a COPA working party meeting in May.
- IFA Organic Project Team held a very successful organic dairy farm walk on the farm of John Fitzpatrick, Spink, Co. Laois last month. Minister Pippa Hackett attended the farm walk.
- IFA has continued contact with both the EU Commission and COPA in relation to the impact of spiralling input costs on the Horticulture sector.
Upcoming Events / Issues
- The EU promotional campaign for Fruit and Veg is now underway. More information can be seen here https://fruitnveg.ie/. The promotion is 80% funded from the EU with the remaining contribution from growers.
- An IFA Fruit and Vegetable Committee meeting will take place in the Farm Centre on Thursday the 20th of July.