Horticulture Reports

Horticulture Council Report September 2021

Market Report

As pandemic restrictions ease, the food service sector is back operating at almost normal capacity which is welcome from growers supplying this market. Retail demand has reduced slightly compared to pandemic levels. 

Met Eireann month rainfall figures at Dublin Airport 

Following a cold wet spring, planting dates were delayed by up to two weeks and as a result harvesting dates have been pushed out as crops are slightly behind schedule. June was also a particularly dry month with only 12.6 m of rain recorded for the month. 

Light intensity levels have been quite good for protected crops over the past weeks. Sales remain positive due to the good weather. 

The strawberry season is expected to wind up slightly earlier than last year following the recent warm weather period. Overall demand for strawberries was excellent for this season, the main constraint being yields due to variety Centenary and of course labour shortages. 

Market demand for the amenity sector remained buoyant this season as pandemic market trends remained in place. The availability of peat is the main concern for growers in the sector at present. If no action is taken immediately, imported peat will lead significant logistical and cost implications, notwithstanding the environmental hypocrisy. 

The availability of labour is at crisis point for all sub-sectors of horticulture at present. As the economy has re-opened there is an abundance of job vacancies in all sectors and horticulture operators have lost staff to other industries in the last month. In addition, long serving staff have holidays built up and are returning home for long periods. The industry can only be described as ‘in crisis mode’ in terms of labour at present and it will most certainly put more growers out of business if the situation does not improve imminently. 

Input costs have also soared for the sector which is further compounding difficulties on farms. Transport, packaging, materials and energy have all skyrocketed in the last 6 months. The price of peat is also a main contributing factor, as growers are forced to import peat due to the high court ruling on peat extraction on peat in Ireland. Growers are reporting up to 40% increase in costs of peat alone. 

Activity since last National Council 

  • IFA continued to engage with retailers to convey growers concerns in terms of crop losses due to weather conditions and increased input costs in relation to employment, inputs and the pandemic. 
  • An IFA delegation met with Minister Damian English to convey the crisis situation in terms of labour at present. All sub-sectors of horticulture were represented. IFA’s submission on the re-opening of the Pilot Work Permit Scheme was discussed in detail. Progress on a season work permit scheme was also discussed. 
  • Members of the IFA Mushroom committee met with Minister Heather Humphreys to discuss the main issues in the sector. Labour requirement and peat were amongst the main agenda items. 
  • An IFA delegation met with officials from the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications on Peat. From the meeting it was agreed that the Department of Environment officials would assist to prepare a ‘step by step’ document on harvesting of peat for under 30ha bogs. 
  • The IFA mushroom committee met with Minister Pippa Hackett on June 2nd. Labour and work permits, Peat availability, Brexit impact and the Brexit Adjustment Fund were the main points addressed. IFA issued a press release following the meeting. 
  • A cross sectoral horticultural meeting with Minister Heydon took place on August 31st. The issues of labour and peat were to the fore. 
  • IFA held a protest at Dublin’s convention Centre on Tuesday the 13th of July. A 50m² display was built by growers with the message ‘no peat, no produce’ displayed as part of the protest. 
  • Following IFA’s Peat protest, the three relevant Ministers were called to address the joint Oireachtas committee on Agriculture. IFA prepared a submission on peat in advance of this meeting. 
  • IFA horticultural representatives met with Bord na Mona on June 18th to discuss the remaining stocks of peat available for the industry. 
  • The Peat Use in Horticulture Consultation Group has met 9 times since it was established. IFA has member representatives from the Nursery Stock and Mushroom Committees. Unfortunately, little progress has been made to date with the group. 
  • The launch of the Green Cities Initiative took place on the 16th of June by way of a panel discussion that was livestreamed to local authorities and planners. The campaign was formally launched by Minister Hackett, Tara McCarthy BordBia Ceo and Val Farrell, chairman of the IHNSA.  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.
  • IFA completed a submission on the re-opening of the Pilot Work Permit Scheme for the horticultural sector. The submission can be found on https://www.ifa.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/IFA-Submission-Opening-of-Work-Permit-Pilot-Programme-July-2021.pdf .
  • IFA competed a submission on the review of the occupations list for employment work permits. A robust submission was made detailing the reasons horticultural operators should be removed from the list.
  • A Mushroom committee meeting was held on the 7th of July. 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. 
  • The IFA horticultural department fed into the IFA submission on the CAP Strategic plan 2021-2027. 
  • The IFA horticultural department fed into the IFA submission on the Draft Agri Food Strategy.

EU/COPA Developments 

  • 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. 
  • IFA will participate in a Copa Working Party and CDG on Fruits and Vegetables to be held on 30th September and October 1st.
  • IHNSA chairman Val Farrell will attend an ENA meeting in Germany on September 1st

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. 
  • The campaign on the reopening of the Pilot Work Permit Scheme will continue. 
  • IFA will be lobbying to include the sectors of horticulture affected by Brexit in the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund announced by the EU. 
  • Members of the IFA organic Project Team will meet with Bord Bia this month to discuss market development and opportunities for the sector. 
  • IFA are participating in a new project agroBRIDGES for the organic sector in Ireland. The project aims to stimulate the adoption of Short Food Supply Chains.

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