Thursday, 11 October 2018

Questions (32)

Mick Wallace


32. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the percentage of agricultural land here used to grow vegetables; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41450/18]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

While approximately 1% of Ireland’s agricultural land is utilised to grow vegetables, the value of output from this area is significantly higher than that percentage area would indicate.

Ireland’s horticulture industry has the fourth highest farm gate output value in the agricultural sector, exceeded only by beef, dairy and pig meat.

The horticulture sector contributed approximately €433m to Irish farm output in 2017. Within this, the farm-gate value of field vegetable production (excluding potatoes) was estimated at €71.5m.

The sector is labour intensive with an estimated 6,600 people directly employed full-time. In addition the sector contributes strongly to economic activity and indirect employment upstream and downstream.

The Food Wise 2025 strategy targeted a 25% increase in output value for the horticulture sector overall and increasing consumer demand for horticultural produce and the need to increase fruit and vegetable consumption presents opportunities to achieve this growth in output.

Notwithstanding its potential the Government recognises the challenges that lie ahead for the sector. It continues to provide support though the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector. In Budget 2019 funding for this scheme is increased by an additional €1 million to €6 million for 2019. This increase was secured in response to strong demand for investment at grower level and Government's desire to improve competitiveness within the sector.

Separately, the EU Producer Organisation Scheme for Fruit and Vegetables offers potential to increase grower collective bargaining power.

Mentoring on financial resilience will shortly be rolled out to horticultural growers by Bord Bia. In addition, through Bord Bia the State is also working to develop LEAN practices across the horticultural sector. Teagasc also continues its work to support the sector with significant investment evident through the new horticultural research unit which opened in Ashtown earlier this year.

To conclude, the Government and its State Agencies are putting the resources in place to allow Ireland’s horticulture sector achieve its potential and capitalise on the opportunities that lie ahead.