Combined input costs in the horticulture sector have risen by 40% since 2021, according to a new report by Teagasc.

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.

Labour

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.

Sub-sectors

Mushrooms was the sub-sector that saw the highest inflation rate of input prices, a 12.8% increase when comparing March 2023 with January 2024.

This was followed by a 6.3% rise in input price inflation for top fruit (such as apples), a 5.1% increase in vegetables and a 4.5% rise in protected salad crops, in the same time frame.

The input price inflation of soft fruit (such as strawberries) increased by 4.3% when comparing March 2023 with January 2024.

High wire crops (such as tomatoes) saw the lowest input price inflation in this time period at 0.3%.

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Fourth-largest commodity sector

The horticulture sector as a whole has a farmgate value of €521m, making it the fourth-largest commodity sector in Ireland after dairy, beef and pigs in terms of gross agricultural commodity output value.

The horticulture sector covers plant and food horticulture.

Horticulture food includes mushrooms, potatoes, field vegetables, soft fruit, protected crops and outdoor fruit.

Amenity horticulture includes nursery stock, protected crops, cut foliage, outdoor flowers and bulbs.

The operating environment for Irish horticulture producers is constantly evolving, the report outlined.

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“While Brexit, COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of the Ukraine characterised the commentary on input prices during 2021 to 2023, this year the commentary emphasises the subject of climate change, specifically the increased frequency and spatial pattern of extreme weather leading to difficult growing conditions right through from plant establishment to harvesting,” it said.