Calls for retailers to back vegetable growers as drought continues

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is calling on supply chain partners, including big and small retailers, to support local growers as the drought continues.

UFU vegetable chairman Adrian McGowan said some areas hadn’t had substantial rainfall since May.

“The extreme weather conditions have made it a very difficult growing year,” he said.

‘Growers are battling just to keep crops alive’

“We have gone from a very wet spring, which delayed and affected the establishment of crops, to severe drought with no recovery time in between.

“Right now, we are simply battling to keep crops alive with the hope that more rain will arrive soon.”

The unusual weather pattern has added an extra financial burden to farm businesses as farmers attempt to save crops.

Even on the few days where rain did fall, in some easterly areas less than 1mm was recorded.

The graph below shows the amount recorded on July 15, across GrassCheck’s 50 on-farm weather stations.

Image source: GrassCheck

McGowan said retailers and packers must urgently review farm gate prices across all field vegetables.

Increased production costs

“Farmers are irrigating fields, which is highly unusual for here and it is adding to production costs,” he said.

“We are looking to our retail and processing partners to recognise this and the extreme circumstances we are facing.”

A union spokeswoman added that the continued downward pressure on farm-gate prices hasn’t helped the situation.

“Farmers’ returns continue to be squeezed making it more and more difficult for a business to survive these sort of unpredictable events,” she added.