‘It costs €100/ac to irrigate a crop just once’

The Irish field vegetable sector is being severely impacted by the continuing drought according to a statement from the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

The IFA’s horticulture chairman, Paul Brophy, stated: “Growers are already suffering financial losses due to yield reductions and lost crops. However, producers are also incurring considerable extra costs due to irrigation requirements.

It costs €100/ac to irrigate a crop just once. Many crops need to be irrigated multiple times due to the continuation of dry weather conditions.

He urged retailers to recognise the lengths vegetable growers are going to and the expenses being incurred in order to manage and maintain supplies to their customers.

“Retailers and facilitators must show solidarity and lend support at this challenging time. Vegetable specifications and farm-gate prices need to be reviewed to reflect the current difficult farm business environment,” he stated.

The statement pointed out unusual weather patterns in the spring and early summer and stated that north Co. Dublin – an area where a large amount of vegetable crops are grown – received a total rainfall of 54mm over the months of March, April and May. This is compared to the 30-year average of 166mm for the same months.

Soil moisture deficits are now higher than 2018 when the country was in a drought.

Higher farm-gate prices needed

Brophy stated that the IFA has consistently highlighted the need for increased farm-gate prices for fresh produce.

He said: “Continuing unfair trading practices among the retailers such as below-cost selling, unsustainable discounting and tendering have resulted in untenable farm-gate prices.

“Existing producer returns include no accommodation for natural yield reductions; the vagaries of the weather or input cost increases. This leaves no leeway for reinvestment in farm businesses.”

He continued on to describe how growers were already dealing with labour issues and extra costs due to Covid-19.

Growers are now at a tipping point due to the added pressure of the drought conditions.

According to the statement the IFA is currently in the process of meeting retailers and facilitators to explain the seriousness of the situation.

It was also pointed out that some crops have already been lost to the elements and without some positive intervention from other members of the food supply chain some farms may not survive the season.

Support Irish

Brophy asked consumers to support local vegetable growers at this time by looking for Irish country of origin and the Bord Bia Quality Assurance mark when buying fresh produce.