There is a fear that labour costs could tip the horticultural industry over the edge, Niall McCormack IFA horticulture chair has said.

The cost of inputs remain high in the horticulture sector as does the cost of labour.

McCormack said that the “increase in the minimum wage and general wages in Ireland is pushing up the costs on horticulture production and the costs of this labour is impinging on the growers profitability.”

With labour representing 42% of costs for the horticulture industry, McCormack said this “is having a detrimental effect on the bottom line with a lot of growers having left the industry”.

He highlighted that “the costs are having a negative effect on food security in the country”. He added that the “retailers are going to have to come up to the mark to pay growers properly or else we just won’t have a horticultural industry in Ireland, it’s as simple as that.”

Increase in price

“The IFA horticulture forum is meeting with supermarkets at the moment but there is a lot of anger at these meetings as growers feel they have been let down.

“There has to be an increase in the price of fruit and vegetables in shops,” McCormack said. “The retail sector is where the prices are coming from and growers have nothing else to give. There is no cushion of support and the industry is on its edge.”

The horticulture chair stated that “there is a bleak outlook for the next five to 10 years, we will end up importing more and more produce which will increase our food miles. The Government hasn’t seriously addressed this situation.”

He explained that the “growers realise that the cost of living has gone up for everyone but they need to get a greater price from the retailers.

“You hear talk now of big growers coming up with exit plans. These substantial growers see no confidence going into the future and have no young blood coming into the industry to take it over,” McCormack concluded.

Teagasc report

McCormack’s comments come following a Teagsac report, which found that input costs in the sector have increased by 40% since 2021.

The fourth annual Teagasc Horticulture Crop Input Prices report outlined that input price inflation in the horticulture sector in Ireland has been significant in recent years.

Comparing input prices in January 2024 with 2023, sub-sectors of horticulture showed price inflation across many inputs, with some exceptions such as energy. In 2024, the standout issue for horticulture is labour costs and this is a key driver of overall input price inflation, the report said.

Labour represents on average 42% of total input costs for most sub-sectors of horticulture.

As an input, labour has increased by between 12.5% and 24.3%, depending on the sub-sector.

Head of Teagasc’s horticulture development department Dermot Callaghan said a response is needed to ensure the viability of the horticulture sector into the future.

“Margin over costs for Irish horticultural producers will need to improve to incentivise investment and allow for generational renewal of businesses.

“A market response will be required to underpin the economic and environmental sustainability of Irish horticultural production into the future,” he said.