A €2.8m support package was approved by Cabinet on Wednesday to assist the horticultural sector in coping with increases in input costs.

The Irish Farmers Journal understands that payment rates of up to €50,000/ha could be on the table for eligible glasshouse growers, with average payments of €4,000 expected for apple producers and €11,800 mooted as the average mushroom grower payment in the scheme.

Funds are set to be delivered to mushroom growers, field vegetable farmers and apple growers, in addition to the high-wire greenhouse producers of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

It is understood that the package is to see €1m to allocated to the high-wire glasshouse growers, €1.2m to field vegetable applicants, €0.4m to the mushroom sector and €0.2m for apple producers.

An Irish Farmers Journal source has provided documents suggesting that the following payment rates are “guided” but are “not yet finalised”:

  • Glasshouse tomato, cucumber and pepper growers - €50,000/ha (up to a maximum of 2ha).
  • Field vegetable growers - €177/ha (with an estimated average payment of €4,800).
  • Mushrooms - €5.8/t (with an estimated average payment of €11,800).
  • Apples - €281/t (with an estimated average payment of €4,000).
  • Significant challenges

    The overall funding allocation and Cabinet approval of the scheme was announced by Ministers McConalogue and Hackett, along with comments confirming the delivery of a €13m pig package.

    “We are focusing the package at our high wire, field vegetable, mushroom and apple producers. These sectors make valuable contributions to the overall economy as well as playing a key role in producing top-class, safe, nutritious and local food,” said Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.

    “Similar to the pig sector, the horticulture sector has been experiencing significant input cost challenges. That is why I have acted swiftly to introduce this package to support our domestic horticulture sector,” he explained.

    Soft fruit exclusion

    Growers of soft fruits, such as strawberries, are not set to be eligible for any payments under the package.

    “However, soft growers have unfortunately not been included in these targeted supports and I will be raising this with Minister McConalogue. It is absolutely essential that they too receive funding,” stated Senator Regina Doherty.

    “For the horticultural growers who make up such a crucial industry, we need to get this right,” she added, after commenting that north Dublin growers had been awaiting Government movement on a number of horticultural issues, including the sourcing of horticultural-grade peat, for some time.

    The issue of soft fruit growers’ exclusion from the scheme has also been raised by the IFA.

    “Soft fruit growers do not appear to be included and the IFA is looking for clarity on this,” said IFA protected crops chair Martin Flynn.

    “The producers are struggling with the same level of inflationary input costs as all other sectors. They must be included for funding under the proposed scheme,” he stated.

    Cutting production

    The protected crop sector has seen a fivefold increase in energy costs of recent months and growers may cut further back on production should they be excluded from the funding package, Flynn continued.

    “Given the spiralling costs, without adequate support producers are facing hugely significant decreases in margins which cannot be recouped by price increases alone,” he outlined.

    “Growers have already cut back on production for 2022 to manage cashflow. This is likely to continue unless substantial headway is made in terms of funding. Retailers must also continue to negotiate increased costs with growers” he said.