Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity with special responsibility for Horticulture, Pippa Hackett has heard from growers about their key challenges and issues in the sector.

Horticultural growers shared with Minister Hackett the status of the subsectors with the challenging weather conditions, access to labour and tight margins cited as particular causes for concern.

Representatives from all sectors participating in the Horticulture Industry Forum (HIF) – vegetables, mushrooms, soft fruit, top fruit, potatoes, amenity and protected crops – provided an overview of their key challenges and issues.  

The HIF was formed in 2014 as an umbrella organisation for Irish horticultural growers to facilitate a co-operative approach to the challenges that face the industry, and to foster conditions that will help develop the industry long term.

Horticulture Industry Forum

Minister Hackett co-chaired the spring meeting of the now bi-annual HIF today (Monday, May 13), where progress of the National Strategy for Horticulture 2023-2027 was discussed.

The strategy sets out eight actions that will drive change and growth across all the horticultural subsectors and lead to environmental, economic and social sustainability, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

The eight key strategic actions contained in the National Strategy for Horticulture 2023–2027, which was published at the beginning of June last year, are:

  • Strengthen the position of the grower in the marketplace;
  • Develop a written charter between growers, consolidators and retailers, and increase consumer demand for local, in-season, fresh, quality fruit, vegetables and plants;
  • Establish the framework for a permanent non-EEA seasonal workers’ scheme for the horticulture industry to ensure a reliable supply of skilled seasonal workers in the short to medium term, while innovation and research into automation is intensified;
  • Review horticulture course availability and suitability for a modern dynamic sector, enabling the educational platforms to attract talent that will drive the horticulture sector to realise its potential;
  • Research and development for the industry;
  • Better data and information for better insights;
  • Integrate horticulture back into the broader agricultural knowledge and innovation system;
  • Support innovation and diversification.

Forum members today also heard from the Agri-Food Regulator, Niamh Lenehan and senior policy executive at the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Robert Malone.

Speaking after the meeting today, Minister Hackett said: “We had a very productive meeting today, and there are a number of action points raised by the sector that I’ve taken away for consideration and to follow up on.

“It was positive to hear of the collaborate engagement and progress that has been made on implementing a number of the key strategy actions in the National Strategy for Horticulture 2023–2027. 

“The IFA’s work on developing a charter between retailers, consolidators and growers is very encouraging and I was also delighted to hear of the focus the Agri-Food-Regulator is placing on the horticulture sector.” 

The new relief provisions for the Carbon Tax which commenced on April 1, were welcomed by the protected crop and mushroom sector, and the development of the new research orchard at Teagasc’s Oak Park in Carlow was also praised, the minister said.