It has been a mixed season for growers with difficult weather and harvest conditions compounded by the pandemic. Labour has certainly been the biggest challenge for growers in all sectors. This has led to a number of increased costs. Retailers have ignored repeated asks to increase farm gate prices in order to cover these unexpected costs. At the very minimum, input costs have increased by 15% due to the expense of implementing Covid related guidelines and the inefficiencies associated with the training of new seasonal workers and these costs are still in place as the country is in the midst of another wave of the virus.
Unfortunately, the food service sector is in turmoil as tighter restrictions are being imposed around the country. The demand for crops in this sector will disappear overnight and growers will feel the pinch once again. Demand for supplies of fresh produce going to retail remains strong. Growers have suffered losses and continued uncertainly continues.
Harvesting conditions were difficult in some parts of the country as ground conditions were very wet. Harvesting of root crops in particular has been affected and growers have reported losses.
Salad crops have finished off with a reasonable year as light levels averaged out quite good. Some losses were reported following the most recent weather event.
The strawberry season has finished on a less positive note as growers reported that crop yields reduces significantly almost overnight. Retailers need to understand the volatility of the Irish growing season especially when it comes to pack sizes. August was a very difficult month for growers and growers have experienced difficulties ever since. The return to school also impacted demand as families get back into routine. Labour supply was also affected as students returned to college.
Apple growers have had a reasonable season and yields have averaged out slightly better than expected. Prices have held quite well throughout the season.
Activity since last National Council
- IFA participated in a Copa Cogeca working party meeting on Fruit and Vegetables. The main agenda items were, unfair trading practises, implications of Covis-19 and phytosanitary issues.
- IFA is in contact with all retailers regularly in relation to stocking more Irish produce and reiterating the extra costs incurred by growers because of the current pandemic and adverse weather conditions. Along with the drought, producers are incurring major extra costs associated with implementing new Health and Safety guidelines due to the pandemic. Retailers have refused to acknowledge this in the farm gate price or show any appreciation for the extra effort which is ensuring fresh produce gets to their shelves. IFA has had a number of meetings with all the main retailers on this issue.
- The issues relating to Peat Extraction are a major concern for the Amenity and mushroom sectors in particular and IFA have started a lobbying campaign with relevant ministers on the issue. An IFA delegation recently met with John Neenan from Growing Media Ireland to discuss the issues.
- IFA continued to engage with government to ensure that horticulture workers can continue to be allowed into Ireland in accordance with EU guidelines. IFA’s media campaign continues to emphasise the critical importance for seasonal workers in horticulture.
- IFA has been in contact with the HSE in relation to issues regarding cases of Covid 19 in the sector. We have emphasised that if farms producing fresh produce are forced to close for even short periods of time, it would result in that business being closed for good.
- IFA continues to engage withDepartment of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on the initiative to recruit seasonal workers for the horticultural sector. However as expected the initiative has failed to recruit any significant number of workers.
- IFA has contacted DBEI regarding reopening the pilot work permit scheme.
- IFA continues to engage with Bord Bia and other stakeholders in a number of industry campaigns. IFA are involved in the decision-making process of all key activations in these campaigns.
- IFA have continued contact with both the EU Commission and COPA in relation to the impact of Covid 19 on the Horticulture sector. There are some positive changes to the PO scheme which may be of some help to the four Producer Organisations currently in operation here.
- IFA, along with Copa. Cogeca, are continuing their lobbying in Brussels regarding the reapproval and authorisation of a number of vital PPP’s.
Upcoming Events / Issues
- IFA will meet with Minister Pippa Hackett on October 7th to discuss overarching issues in the horticultural sector.
- Meetings will continue with retailers regarding the issues arising as a result of Covid 19 etc and to ensure Irish produce is stocked ahead of imports.
- IFA will be seeking a meeting with Minister Leo Varadkar regarding reopening the work permit scheme.
- IFA will be stepping up its lobbying campaign in relation to the peat issue and calling for an immediate meeting of the proposed new consultation group on the issue.
- The proposed EU Green Deal contains more threats than opportunities for the Irish horticulture sector. IFA will highlight these issues at government level and demand a full impact assessment of the proposals in the Deal.
- IFA will continue its work regarding the retention of key PPP’s.