Horticulture Council Report November 2021
Demand for the food service and processing sectors remain strong as we begin to approach a typically busy period. Retail trade is buoyant; however, it is less than this period last year when a national level 5 lockdown was in force.
Many salad crops, apart from indoor lettuce, are virtually finished, although the likes of celery will be available into December. Most of these growers are now working to clean down glasshouses and get ready for next year’s plantings.
Following a very dry October, many growers have made good progress on harvesting crops such as broccoli. Root crops and other brassicas will be harvested throughout the winter.
The Irish strawberry season finished about a week ahead of normal due to a warm burst of weather later in the season.
Market demand for the amenity sector remained buoyant this season as pandemic followed suit to a certain extent. 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 to significant logistical and cost implications, notwithstanding the environmental hypocrisy.
The announcement of a new quota of 1000 work permits for the horticultural sector is welcome to alleviate immediate requirements, particularly in the mushroom sector. Labour is one of the main ongoing constraints for the Irish horticultural sector. 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.
The increase in input costs seen over the past number of weeks will certainly lead to some growers contemplating their future in the industry. Transport, packaging, materials and energy have all skyrocketed in the last 6 months. The price of imported peat is also a contributing factor. Growers are reporting up to 40% increase in costs of peat alone.
Activity since last National Council
- The IHNSA AGM took place in Portlaoise on the 21st of October. Michal Slawski from Bord Bia gave a presentation on the Green Cities Promotions and Oliver Molloy from DAFM updated on plant health regulation.
- IFA continued to engage with retailers to convey growers concerns in terms of increased input costs in relation to employment, inputs and the pandemic.
- A new general employment permit quota for 1000 horticultural operatives was approved last month following robust lobbying. The additional permits should help to alleviate the huge shortfall for the sector in the immediate future. In a press release issued IFA called for clarity to be provided urgently on the timeframe for the approval of the permits.
- IFA attended a Copa Peat working party on peat on the 9th September. The state of play in each member state in terms of peat was discussed.
- An IFA delegation met with Senator Regina Doherty on the 23rd of September on Martin Flynn’s Nursery. The main items discussed were Peat, Work Permits, Carbon Tax exemption for Glasshouse growers and input cost increases.
- Horticultural growers, led by IFA President Tim Cullinan, protested outside Leinster House on the 13th of October. The protest coincided with the issue being debated in the Seanad.
- IFA met with DAFM on Plant Protection Product use in the Soft Fruit Sector on October 7th.
- The Peat Use in Horticulture Consultation Group has met 13 times since it was established. IFA has member representatives from the Nursery Stock and Mushroom Committees. The final report is still outstanding.
- 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.
- There are ongoing discussions with Lidl and Bord Bia in relation to Global Gap quality assurance.
- IFA participated in a Copa Working Party and CDG on Fruits and Vegetables to be held on 30th September and October 1st.
- A Horticulture Industry Forum meeting took place on Friday the 29th of October in Ashtown.
- An Organic’s Project Team meeting took place on Monday the 8th Of November. The main agenda item was funding under the new CAP.
- IFA are commissioning an independent report on the state of play in the horticulture sector. This will focus on the increased input costs as a percentage of margins and the consolidation of growers. An initial meeting was held on the 10th of November.
- 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
- 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 continue its lobbying campaign in relation to harvesting of peat for the horticultural sector and for action to be taken from the Peat Consultation Group.
- IFA will be lobbying to include the sectors of horticulture affected by Brexit in the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund announced by the EU.