Horticulture contributed a farm gate value of €400m in 2015, making it the third most valuable agricultural commodity after beef and dairy, said Agriculture Minister of State, Andrew Doyle.
The sector makes an important economic contribution and generates significant ancillary employment in areas such as preparing, packing produce, distribution, retail, garden design and landscaping, Mr Doyle said during a Seanad debate on agriculture.
Irish consumers spend on average of €1.2bn on fresh fruit, vegetables and potatoes, second only to dairy produce.
On the non-food side of horticulture the Irish consumer is spending €512m on plants and cut flowers for the home. Mr Doyle said 75% of all mushroom production, worth €100m is exported annually.
Almost €14m of non-food horticultural products — nursery stock, cut foliage, bulbs, flowers and Christmas trees — are also exported, mainly to the UK and Northern Ireland.
“I am keenly aware of the challenges that these sectors now face, and in particular the mushroom industry following the aftermath of the UK referendum decision to exit the EU, particularly in light of recent fluctuations in currency,” said Mr Doyle.
In 2015 the mushroom sector had an estimated farm gate output value of €137m with the UK accounting for 83% of Irish mushroom production of some 61,000 tonnes.
“Budget 2017 underpins the department’s mitigation efforts through investment in key areas of the department, in its agencies and in the agri-food sector,” said Mr Doyle.
“From giving access to an innovative low-interest agri-cash flow fund of €150m, to agri-taxation measures designed to strategically smooth income fluctuations, Budget 2017 provides a robust, pre-emptive response to the Brexit challenge.”
Mr Doyle also said the Department of Agriculture, Bord Bia, Teagasc and Enterprise Ireland are working with the industry to provide support.
“Under the Foodwise 2025 plan the department has set ambitious targets for the horticulture sector, to grow the value output of the horticulture sector by a further €500m and deliver 1,000 jobs,” said Mr Doyle.
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