Rising costs in the horticulture sector will lead to a shortage of Irish vegetables on supermarket shelves this season, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA). Chair of the IFA Horticulture Committee, Paul Brophy, who grows broccoli in Co. Kildare, explained that there has been a 40% decrease in the acreage of that crop alone due to growers exiting the sector. The IFA chair has ruled outgrowing any more produce to meet supermarket demand: “If I keep filling those gaps, I keep feeding that beast that’s consuming me.”
Brophy explained that growers have scaled up and become more efficient in order to stay in business, however, he noted that “scale becomes your enemy” when it becomes negative and growers lose money. He predicted that the first shortages this season for Irish produce could come in glasshouse crops such as tomatoes and cucumbers, followed by iceberg lettuce, green cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. However, Brophy noted that the same will not be true of root crops which are not as labor-intensive.
Brophy outlined that the horticulture sector is a very input and labor-intensive sector and the spend on fertilizer would be considerably higher than that of a cereal grower. The cost of energy, fuel, and packaging has all risen for growers; to produce a crop this year will cost them between 15-20% more. “It’s the lack of recognition that inflation has not just crept in, but galloped into all our businesses. We’re just inundated with cost increases that are outside our control,” the IFA chair said.
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