Market demand has remained buoyant, especially at hospitality level, since the re-opening of the economy. Retail trade remains buoyant, albeit quieter than last year when more pandemic restrictions were in place.
Thankfully it was a favourable harvest period for growers which was the once saving grace due to the cost of production.
Input costs are a huge concern for growers and unfortunately, some growers have decided to cease production or have scaled back as a result. The price of direct inputs across all lines has spiralled including fertiliser, packaging, labour, energy and natural gas.
Heated glass production has been heavily impacted by soaring gas prices and many growers have delayed plantings as a result.
The market for the amenity sector remains buoyant as we approach the bust period. Input costs, labour availability and peat remain core issues for the industry. The availability of peat remains the main concern for growers in the sector. If no action is taken immediately, peat will continue to be imported which will lead significant logistical and cost implications, notwithstanding the environmental hypocrisy.
Unfortunately, there are no workers on the ground yet due to processing backlogs following the announcement of the 1000 additional work permits for the horticultural sector last October. IFA met with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on this last week and additional staff (x3) have been allocated to alleviate the backlog. It is envisaged it will still take a number of weeks to work through this backlog.
The introduction of the proposed seasonal work permit scheme will be very important for the sector moving forward and IFA continues to lobby to get this over the line.
Activity since last National Council
- IFA held a crisis growers meeting on February 3rd. Spiralling input costs was the main agenda item. At the meeting it was agreed that IFA will continue to engage with retailers at senior buyer and CEO level on the issue. The IFA President was also mandated to take direct action for a fair price if retailers do not give a fair price increase.
- IFA met with Minister Malcolm Noonan on the publication of the final report from the peat working Document in December last. The final report and action plan has since been published. the recommendations set out in the final report are contrary to the Action Plan points and IFA has called for the action plan to be scrapped.
- IFA continues to meet with all retailers highlighting spiralling input costs at grower level.
- IFA met with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on this last week
- Additional staff (x3) have been allocated to alleviate the backlog. It is envisaged it will still take a number of weeks to work through this backlog.
- DETE are not prioritising the renewal of work permits at this time but workers will be allowed to continue to work and no sanctions will be imposed once a renewal has been submitted on time.
- It is very important that all information provided in the Labour Needs Requirement Test is correct. A permit cannot be granted if this information is not correct as this is part of primary legislation.
- The seasonal work permit scheme is on the spring timetable to go before the Oireachtas.
- Activities under the Green Cities Promotions continue as part of the European funded initiative. The campaign aims to promote green landscaping in building projects in Ireland, while encouraging the use of locally-grown planting stock. The promotion is 80% funded from the E.U. with 20% coming from industry. Growers are reminded to contribute to the promotion.
- Following a series of engagements with Lidl and Bord Bia, Lidl have accepted Bord Bia SHAS Scheme as meeting their requirements.
- IFA participated in a Copa Working Party on Fruits and Vegetables in February. Input costs were the main issue across all member states at the meeting.
- The latest Horticulture Industry Forum meeting took place on the 4th of February. Input costs at farm level was the main agenda item.
- An Organic’s Project Team meeting took place on Tuesday February 15th.
- The IFA appointed John Curran as Chairman of the IFA Organic Project Team. The project Team acknowledged Nigel Renaghan’s contribution to the project team over the last 4 years.
- IFA has continued contact with both the EU Commission and COPA in relation to the impact of COVID-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
- IFA will launch an independent report commissioned by an independent economist on the state of play in the Irish horticultural sector.
- Meetings will continue with retailers regarding the issues arising as a result of input cost increases and to ensure Irish produce is stocked ahead of imports.
- IFA will continue its lobbying campaign in relation to harvesting of peat for the horticultural sector.
- 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 IHNSA/IFA will hold a trolley fair to mark the beginning of the amenity season on March 8th on Whites Agri premises Lusk, Co. Dublin.