Fruit and vegetable shortages loom for Ireland

Growers and industry specialists are warning that consumers in Ireland can expect a shortage of fruit and vegetables for the rest of 2023.

Fruit and vegetable shortages loom for Ireland
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Cabbages, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, broccoli and sprouts, in particular, are likely to be in short supply after heavy rainfall earlier in the year, followed by the current drought conditions.

The Irish Independent newspaper reported that the unusual weather conditions were affecting the growth of fruit and vegetables, leaving most crops “up to a month late”.

A Dublin-based agronomist and consultant to the agriculture and food development agency Teagasc, Richard Hackett, 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.”

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He added that it was “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”.

Niall McCormack, chairperson of the Irish Farming Association’s Horticulture Committee and a fruit grower near Longford, estimated that the volume of field vegetables grown in the country this year would decline by 7%.

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

Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk recently, Hackett said vegetable and potato growers were not in a position to “take on the pressures that weather comes with at the present time”.

He added that during the summer months there were normally soil moisture reserves which facilitated the growth of crops.

“The crops are designed to work in the temperate climate we have. They take this long day length with the heat and moisture, and they grow very rapidly. [However, if] one of the ingredients is missing, the crops don’t grow the way they should.

“What happened this year [was that] during the very wet March and April, we just couldn’t plant the crops. Then when [it] stopped raining, the moisture deficit meant the crops couldn’t establish [themselves]”.

Due to the current supply shortages, retailers in Ireland were being forced to depend on imported produce from Spain, as well as other European countries. However, these supplies were also being curtailed due to similar climatic conditions in the region.

“Europe, in general, is running out of water to grow vegetables,” Hackett said, adding that yields were therefore down across the continent. “In Spain, for instance, they use aquifers for their irrigation and that’s not available [at present]. They [also] have labour issues.”