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SEPTEMBER 2018
Feature
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
exceptionally high temperatures which put crops under
serious stress. We are working with 25 dedicated growers
in the south east of Ireland. Over the past number of
years, the growers have invested in irrigation equipment.
We now have 55 irrigators running around the clock to
irrigate the crops. This takes a massive eff ort from the
growers. Some of the scab prone crop were irrigated as
many as 11 times. Over 60 per cent of our crops have been
well irrigated, 25 per cent moderately and 15 per cent not
irrigated. As a result of the extreme weather we are now
seeing secondary growth symptoms in crops that haven't
been irrigated and this is now a major concern. This
phenomenon has been experienced in varieties such as
Kerr Pinks and Golden Wonder in the past but never to
this extent in Rooster. There is still a lot of uncertainty
about the extent of second growth and what will happen
the crop when suffi cient rains will arrive."
Retailer role
IFA President Joe Healy has recognised moves by some
retailers to support Irish fi eld vegetable growers who are
facing a fi nancial crisis as a result of the extended drought
this summer. He welcomed the statement by SuperValu
confi rming that they are putting fi nancial supports in
place for their existing growers of fi eld vegetable crops.
IFA pointed out that growers have gone to extraordinary
lengths in order to maintain a supply of quality Irish
produce to Irish consumers.
However, even growers with the best irrigation equipment
and full access to water have been unable to deal with
the severe soil moisture defi cits. Growers have run up
massive extra costs and still are reporting reductions in
yield of 20 per cent minimum right up to the loss of entire
crops, which have either failed to germinate or perished
in the harsh conditions. The IFA President reported that
some other retailers had moved to support growers and
he called on all retailers to act without delay by increasing
grower returns across the board on all Irish vegetable
lines. "Irish growers are operating on very tight margins,
which leave no scope to absorb a crisis like this and
without substantial support from retailers, 2018 will push
many of our growers over the edge," Joe Healy warned.
Working through the crisis
Adapting to the vagaries of the weather is part of the
day job for farming businesses. Weather infl uences their
decisions. It means regularly re-assessing situations,
working through diff erent scenarios and adjusting plans.
But, at times of extreme weather, the decisions taken can
be tougher, the impacts can be more severe and they can
be longer lasting.
Fresh produce market
The Retail Fresh Produce Market was worth 1.5bn
in the year ending March 2017 with vegetables
accounting for 570m, fruit 735m and potatoes
195m. Fruit and vegetables combined represent 15.7
per cent of the average grocery shopping basket. The
foodservice market was worth 355m in 2013.
There has been a continual trend in the reduction of
the number of fresh produce growers The number of
fi eld vegetable growers fell from 377 in 1999 to 165 in
2014 according to the National Field Vegetable Census.
This represents a drop of 56 per cent in the number of
commercial growers over a 15-year period.
Generally, horticulture producers face the challenge
of the marketplace on a daily basis. There are no
subsidies, so profi t from productivity is paramount. In
the face of increasing globalisation and competition,
increasing consumer demands around sustainability
and quality-assured products, growers and producers
will need to constantly innovate to maintain
competitiveness and viability.
The Horticulture Industry Forum (HIF) was formed in
2014 as an umbrella organisation, for growers of Irish
produce, to address serious challenges facing the
industry. Bord Bia, Department of Agriculture Food and
Marine, Teagasc and the IFA are associate members of
HIF. This Forum can revitalise horticulture by setting out
a clear vision for the industry and how that vision can
be achieved. The HIF Vision Statement indicates Ireland
has the potential to produce fruit, vegetables, fl owers
and plants of the highest quality to feed and nurture
all its people. However, greater grower collaboration
coupled with progressive public policy initiatives can
shape a thriving industry.
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