Soft Fruit Industry Seminar
Irish consumers are now eating €35 million worth of strawberries each year with an increasing proportion of these fruit being produced in Ireland. The Irish soft fruit industry has grown by 190% in the last decade alone and the sector has been very resilient during the economic downturn.
Speaking at the Teagasc National Berry Seminar, sponsored by Bord Bia and the Irish Soft Fruit Growers Association, Shane McEntee TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine praised Irish growers for investing in protective structures in recent years as well as other specialised equipment to reduce input costs and improve efficiency.
Protected strawberry production is now the mainstay of the berry industry in Ireland. Growers have invested millions in new glasshouse technology to extend the growing season for Irish soft fruit. Most of the fruit grown is for home consumption but about 15% is exported to the UK each year.
Teagasc research at Kinsealy on strawberry tray plants has been vital for a number of strawberry plant producers in Ireland. They have increased their production over the last number of years and may be in a position to export in the future. This has allowed Irish growers to reduce their reliance on imported plant material by at least 40%.
Speaking at the National Berry Seminar in Carlow today, Tuesday, 1 May, Teagasc Soft Fruit specialist Dr.Eamonn Kehoe said: “People realise the health benefits of eating fresh fruit and consumption is holding. Irish growers have responded by investing in new glasshouses to provide fresh fruit for a longer season. There are possibilities for savvy people who spot a lack of supply in their local area to get into the business. Over the last year some people who have lost their jobs have entered the business and are now growing strawberries.”