There is only one grower of iceberg lettuce left in Ireland, according to IFA Vegetable Committee Chairman Paul Brophy.

It’s the same where scallions are concerned – we are down to one grower left in Ireland, he said.

“So where is the choice for consumers in allowing this to happen? And, if these producers should happen to give up, their knowledge and skill base would be lost to the country.”

Brophy was interviewed for last Saturday’s CountryWide programme on RTE Radio. The Kildare man, one of Ireland’s largest broccoli growers, said that the supermarkets’ continuing campaign to sell vegetables the year-round at knock down prices is having a devastating impact on the Irish produce sector.

We used to have 600 produce growers in the country: now we are down to 240.

“Until the recent spell of bad weather in countries like Spain, the supermarkets were able to bring vegetables like broccoli into this country the year-round.

“Here in Ireland, broccoli is a summer vegetable. Yet we now have a situation where there is only a 55% chance that a head of broccoli purchased in Ireland between mid-June  and mid-November will be home grown.

“The principle of seasonality no longer holds within the fresh produce sector. The drive towards cheap food is having major repercussions for the vegetable sector.

“Seasonality is not a third world issue – it is a first world problem.

“No one would put cheap petrol in their car. But consumers are happy to put cheap food into their own bodies and those of their children.”

Brophy started planting out his 2017 broccoli crop in heated poly tunnels two weeks ago.

“They should be ready for transplanting in about five weeks’ time,” he said.

Brophy works on the principle that between 70 and 80% of the seedlings established will make it through to market size.