Field vegetable production in Ireland will be down by 7% in 2023, Teagasc has said following direct engagement with growers.

In recent years, a significant number of primary producers in the vegetable sector among others have ceased trading. Early indications for 2023 show this continuing, Teagasc said in a report on horticulture input prices.

“All the sub-sectors of horticulture report a significant input price inflation across most inputs, except for energy. Energy is still at least 100% more expensive than in 2021,” Teagasc said.

“While primary horticulture producers have for the most part received some output price increases in 2022, the continuing input price inflation means that achieving a margin over costs for many horticultural enterprises will continue to be a challenge.”

Teagasc added that the importance of underpinning Irish horticulture production has never been more in focus, following these recent shortages of certain product lines and supply chain issues.

Market response

A market response will be required, Teagasc said, to ensure the viability of an industry that puts local, nutritious, fresh, top-quality produce on the supermarket shelf.

The continuing input price inflation means that achieving a margin over costs for many horticultural enterprises continues to be challenging.\ Philip Doyle.

Valued at €477m at farm gate, horticulture is the fourth largest sector after dairy, beef and pigs in terms of its gross agricultural commodity output value in Ireland.

Horticulture food includes mushrooms, potatoes, field vegetables, soft fruit, protected crops and outdoor fruit. Amenity horticulture includes nursery stock, protected crops, cut foliage and outdoor flowers and bulbs.

The key objective of the report, as with previous reports, is to illuminate up-to-date facts about specific input price increases as of now compared to March 2022, Teagasc added.

“This time, sensitive exercise is important to assess the increases in production costs for this season, as prices negotiated now for product delivered in 2023 will need to reflect these increases.

“Across all enterprises, there have been significant increases in input prices, specifically labour, packaging materials, fertiliser and a range of other inputs that are key components of production.”

Downward trend

Dermot Callaghan, head of Teagasc’s Horticulture Development department, said: “While Brexit, COVID-19 and the continuing Ukrainian crisis have pushed input prices much higher in recent years, input price inflation continues in 2023.

“When we set this upward input price trend against the 15-year downward trend in fruit and vegetable retail prices (as depicted in the report), it is clear to see how primary producers could be squeezed.

“A response from the market is required if the viability of the industry is to be maintained, along with the continued flow of local, nutritious, fresh, top-quality produce onto supermarket shelves,” he warned.