IFA President Tim Cullinan has urged consumers and retailers to support the Irish strawberry sector – a vital indigenous industry worth €47m at farm gate, with 57 growers producing over 8,000 tonnes annually.
Roadside sales are expected to commence this weekend. Growers have put measures in place in ensure the safety of all staff and customers. Consumers are encouraged to support local trade at this difficult time.
‘Celebrate Strawberry Week’ is run by Bord Bia and the Irish Soft Fruit Growers Association, in conjunction with IFA. “Irish growers produce top-class produce year on year, with production expected to surpass 8,000 tonnes this year. Over 1,000 people are now employed in the industry and the total retail market is valued at €91m. This exceeds €100m when roadside sales are included,” he said.
“This season is one of the most difficult on record for strawberry growers. Not only are growers contending with the usual issues such as rising input costs and lower margins, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to serious issues with labour on farms.”
IFA Soft Fruit Chairman Jimmy Kearns said, “The current situation has posed a particular problem for strawberry growers. Unfortunately, we cannot shut our gates until the situation improves. In ‘normal’ years, labour accounts for over 50% of input costs in the soft fruit industry. It will be far higher this year and retailers must recognise this”.
Jimmy Kearns reminded consumers that Irish strawberry growers adhere to voluntary quality assurance schemes, with the highest standards of traceability, food hygiene, workers’ rights and sustainability. However, he said this compliance creates an increasing financial burden on primary producers, which is not recognised by retailers.
This year’s campaign urges consumers to replace refined sugars with strawberries as a natural and healthy alternative. It highlights how a single serving of strawberries provides 100% of an adult’s daily vitamin C requirement. Strawberries are packed with many nutritional benefits. More than ever, people are turning to fresh, local produce in order to support their health and wellbeing.
Lorcan Bourke, Fresh Produce Manager Bord Bia said, “Recent research by Kantar Worldpanel shows that Irish households spend €120m per annum on fresh strawberries. In the past five years, both the volume and the value of strawberry sales have grown by 50%, showing the increase in popularity of this household favourite fruit. Thankfully, we have a strong supply of locally-grown strawberries available throughout Ireland”.
Source: Irish Farmers Organisation.