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Irish fruit and veg shortage warning as drought affects growers

There will be a shortage of Irish fruit and vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, broccoli and sprouts for the rest of the year, growers and industry specialists have warned.

Heavy rain earlier in the year followed by the current drought is affecting the growth of fruit and vegetables, leaving most crops up to a month late, they said.

“There will be shortages because there are no longer enough growers in the country, coupled with the fact that the weather has been so unpredictable,” said Dublin-based agronomist Richard Hackett.

While all field vegetables will be affected, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, broccoli and sprouts will face the biggest challenge, he said.

“It is crucial to get field crops established in April, May and June, but this year has been difficult.

“They all depend on an early summer establishment, and if you miss that, it’s very hard to catch up.”

With a very wet March and April and now little to no rain in the last five weeks, crops are weeks behind, he said.

​“We are now depending on imported produce from Spain and from other countries, but it’s not coming in because they’re experiencing the same problems with the weather as we are, only they’re getting it worse.

“Europe in general, is running out of water to grow vegetables.”

The yield of most fruit and vegetables will be down this year, according to Andrew Ruiter, who grows 33ac of vegetables in Ashbourne, Meath.

“Spring cabbage, for example, is running out at the moment and while more should be coming on to replace it, it isn’t growing because of the weather conditions we’ve been having this year.

“Growers are finding it very difficult this year because everything has been against them. People don’t realise just how bad it can be.” It’s estimated there will be a 7pc reduction in the amount of field vegetables grown this year, according to Niall McCormack, IFA Horticulture Chair and fruit grower from Longford. Successful crops will be later to the shelves.

“The growing season was so late coming in this year, and even though the weather and the soil have heated up now, we are playing catch-up and everything is likely to be late harvesting. It’s putting huge pressure on growers who are in an already stressful industry.”

​Fergal Anderson, who grows 5ac of vegetables, says smaller-scale producers are usually better equipped to handle unpredictable weather conditions.

“We, for example, use mulch on our ground in our tunnels, which helps to keep moisture in and improves soil fertility. It’s much easier for us to do this than it would be for a larger-scale producer. The next couple of years could be way more destructive than any of us think — crop failures across the world will have a knock-on effect and unintended consequences.

“Input costs for farmers could rise further and we have no resistance to that because we are so dependent on global supply.”

Better supports are needed for Irish vegetable growers to avoid any more from exiting the sector and leaving the country even more dependant on imports.

“If we want everyone in Ireland to have locally produced food, there needs to be a support system in place to help the farmers that grow the food. Currently, there is none and when we are hit with changeable weather or other challenges outside of our control, we have no reserve and no consistent supply of Irish food because farmers and growers are not supported.”


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