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Irish growers seek ombudsman amid demise of commercial vegetable sector

Recent estimates say there are fewer than 100 commercial vegetable growers in Ireland, compared to about 350 in 2010. According to Irish Farmers’ Association president Tim Cullinan, this drop can be almost exclusively attributed to the reducing price being paid by the big retail buyers to their suppliers, forcing more and more of them out of business.

Preliminary figures from the CSO show that in 2021, Ireland imported more than €1bn worth of vegetables and fruit. “Imported broccoli from Spain; imported tomatoes from Holland; strawberries from Egypt; raspberries from Morocco,” Cullinan explained. “All these crops can be grown and produced almost 10 months of the year in Ireland — but only if the retailers pay the cost of local sustainable production.”

The IFA has reiterated its call for a ban on below-cost selling, seeking for this to be ‘enshrined into Irish law and regulated by the new food regulator office’. Retail buyers must be held accountable for the declining number of farmers in these vulnerable sectors of Irish food production, that depend on the Irish domestic retail market.

“The discounting and degrading of food must be stopped,” Cullinan said. “It is a sad state of affairs when farmers who are producing beef and dairy products, where over 90% of what we produce in Ireland is exported, are doing better in world markets than farmers supplying fresh fruit, vegetables, pork and poultry to be consumed here in Ireland.”


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