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Government approves €2.8m support package for growers

IFA says the package is a positive step, but clarity is needed on the position of soft fruit growers

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Horticulture

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21 April 2022 | 0

As part of a €15.8 million aid package for the pig and horticulture sectors, €2.8 million has been allocated to support Irish horticulture farmers.

The package will be funded from Ireland’s EU fund allocation for exceptional adjustment aid to producers in agricultural sectors, which have been impacted by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, as announced by the European Commission on 23 March.

The aid package has been approved to support ‘high-wire’ protected glass house producers of tomatoes, cucumber and peppers impacted, and field vegetable producers, as well as a combined €600,000 in funding for mushroom producers, and commercial apple producers.

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien said: “The sector has seen a contraction in growers in recent months and it is considered that the current situation with the war in Ukraine imposes an existential challenge to the sector.

“There are 10 ‘high-wire’ protected glass house producers of tomatoes, cucumber and peppers impacted, and approximately 250 commercial field vegetable producers, 35 mushroom producers and 50 commercial apple producers nationally who are particularly impacted.

“WelGro Produce, one of only two commercial cucumber growers in Ireland are running a fantastic operation in Rush in North County Dublin. They explained very clearly the pressures they were facing and the challenges to the viability of their business. I am happy to hear that they will be now be eligible for exceptional aid supports.”

Soft fruit growers

IFA field vegetable and protected crops vice chairman Martin Flynn said the aid package is a positive step, but soft fruit growers have been excluded.

“The package falls short of what is needed, given the huge input surge in the sector,” said Flynn. “In addition, it appears soft fruit growers have been inexplicably excluded.

“Soft fruit growers do not appear to be included and IFA is looking for clarity on this. The soft fruit sector is worth approximately €51 million at farm gate. The producers are struggling with the same level of inflationary input costs as all other sectors. They must be included for funding under the proposed scheme,” he said.

The protected crop sector has encountered a five-fold increase in energy costs in recent months. Across all horticulture sub-sectors, there has been a sharp increase in the cost of labour, packaging materials, fertiliser, energy, peat-based growing media, and other inputs that are essential elements of production.

According to the recently published report by economist Jim Power, commissioned by the IFA, the number of growers has fallen by 60%.

“Given the spiralling costs, without adequate support producers are facing hugely significant decreases in margins which cannot be recouped by price increases alone,” said Power. “Growers have already cut back on production for 2022 to manage cashflow. This is likely to continue unless substantial headway is made in terms of funding. Retailers must also continue to negotiate increased costs with growers.”

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