The Irish edible horticulture sector is currently facing unprecedented challenges due to a combination of extraordinarily high production costs and a very difficult retail environment with continuing low prices being received by growers. The sector has experienced a contraction in growers in recent months and it is considered that the current situation poses an existential challenge to the sector. A wide section of commercial growers within the horticulture industry are impacted, the most affected being the energy intensive crop growers including tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
A package of €2.8 million has been allocated to this support scheme for horticulture growers from the EU Exceptional Aid Package. The support scheme will be provided in the form of a once-off payment to growers in those sub-sectors most affected and which have been identified as being at most risk including the glasshouse high-wire crops, field vegetable, mushroom and apple sectors. The support scheme will mitigate against the increase in input costs across these sub-sectors which is threatening the viability and sustainability of these sectors and impacting on food security.
In preparing this support package, my focus was on sub-sectors within the edible horticulture industry that were most impacted by the current Ukrainian crisis. While acknowledging that soft fruit growers are also incurring increased input costs, growers in this sector were not identified as being impacted by the current crisis in the same way as the glasshouse high-wire crops, field vegetable, mushroom and apple sectors.