The protected crop sector in Ireland consists of predominantly family-run businesses growing strawberries (and other berries), tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and peppers, mainly for sale in the Irish retail market. Production takes place in growing media, either in polythene tunnels or glasshouses. Protected crops account for 20% of total horticulture output, 15% of which is food crops and 5% is ornamental crops.
Recent years have seen a noticeable growth in the value of the output from this sector, with the expansion of strawberry production a key contributing factor. Traditionally, the protected crop food sector was dominated by tomatoes and lettuce, however since around 2000, strawberries (and other soft fruit) have become Ireland’s largest protected crops, growing in line with strong market demand. Fresh potted herbs are another category that has seen growth in recent years.