Marking the start of ‘Celebrate Strawberry Season’, IFA President Joe Healy has called on consumers and retailers to support the Irish strawberry sector - a vital indigenous industry worth €47m at farm gate, with 57 growers producing over 8,000 tonnes annually.
Joe Healy said, “Soft fruit producers have endured an extremely difficult period over recent months. The cumulative impact of crop losses and structural damage resulting from storms Ophelia and Emma have cost the sector over €2 million. The impact of these weather events has been compounded by the ongoing labour issues, and the simultaneous increase in virtually all input costs across all businesses.”
Mr Healy reminded consumers that Irish strawberry growers adhere to voluntary quality assurance schemes, which ensure the highest standards on traceability, food hygiene, workers’ rights and sustainability. However, he said, this compliance creates an increasing financial burden on primary producers, which is not currently being recognised by retailers.
“Sales of fruit continue to increase in volume year on year but, it is critical that strawberries are treated as a premium product and not devalued in the eyes of the consumer,” Joe Healy said.
“Although Irish strawberries are synonymous with the Irish summer, growers have made sizable investments on their farms to extend the production season beyond the summer months. 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
Buying Irish strawberries means that, as well as supporting a locally grown product and local industry, consumers also benefit from the nutritional and health benefits of strawberries. They are naturally high in vitamins C and K as well as a good source of fibre, folic acid and phytonutrients known as anthocyanins.