Tipperary consumers urged to pick Irish fruit

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Tipperary consumers urged to pick Irish fruit

Marking Celebrate Strawberry Week on Clarke’s Fresh Fruit farm in Stamullen, County Meath, IFA president Joe Healy; Pat Clarke; Andrew Doyle, Minister of State with responsibility for Horticultur

Tipperary consumers and retailers have been urged to recognise the investment made by Irish strawberry and soft fruit growers, by ensuring that fresh fruit is seen on retail shelves as a premium quality product.

Each year, Ireland’s 100 strawberry growers produce a crop worth €45m at the farm gate, with production expected to surpass 8,000 tonnes this year.

When road sales of strawberries are included the annual retail value of the industry exceeds €100m.

“Although Irish strawberries are synonymous with the Irish summer, growers have made sizable investments on their farms to extend the production season. Fresh fruit is now available to the Irish consumer from April right through to November, in an industry that accounts for 1,000 rural jobs,” said IFA president Joe Healy.

“Due to poor light levels and the cool spring, the Irish season was delayed slightly this year, however, growers are now at peak production. Sales of fruit are growing in volume but there is ongoing concern at the decline in the value of the crop as a result of pressure from retailers.

“Consumer demand continues to expand for strawberries, however growers are fearful for their futures due to the escalation of input costs,” he said.

However, Mr Healy said that the recent increase in wage costs was very significant in this labour-intensive industry where labour accounts for almost 50 per cent of the costs of production.

And he warned that sourcing suitable labour, particularly for the picking of strawberries, was also now proving a problem due to the availability of other employment opportunities in the economy.

To remain competitive, Irish growers will rely on support from Government and the wider supply chain, he said.

He urged consumers to check for country of origin when buying fruit and to support Irish production.

Celebrate Strawberry Week runs until this Sunday, June 11.