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Irish Horticulture Industry

Sector Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine (DAFM) sources estimate that the Horticulture Industry was worth €477m (farm gate value) in 2019, which is the 4th highest sector in terms of gross agricultural commodity output value – only Beef, Dairy and Pigs are larger. Horticulture has a significantly higher output value than that of the 2019 estimate for either Sheep €276.8m or Cereals €260.8m. Horticulture Food represented €410.2m and Amenity Horticulture €67m respectively of the €477m total. Within Horticulture Food output, Mushrooms accounted for €119.2m with Potatoes €111m, Field Vegetables €77.8m, Protected Crops €91.5m and Outdoor Fruit €10.7m. In relation to Amenity output, Nursery Stock represented €37.8m, Protected Crops €19.3m, Christmas Trees €9.2m, Cut Foliage Outdoor Flowers & Bulbs €9.4m and Turf Grass €1.5m.

Domestic Growth

There has been a continual reduction in the number of produce growers over the past two decades. For example, the number of Field Vegetable growers fell from 377 in 1999 to 215 in 2008 and to 165 in 2014 according to the most recent National Field Vegetable Census. This represents a drop of 56% in the number of commercial growers over a 15-year period since 1999. However, those remaining in production have broadly maintained the same level of output. In total, across the industry there is estimated to be about 1,000 growers currently in commercial production.

Export Markets Growth

The majority of horticulture output in Ireland is consumed in the country. Just two sectors have a significant export trade. Mushroom exports constitute 42% of edible horticulture exports from Ireland. The value of mushroom exports in 2019 was €104m, a 4% rise on 2018’s value.
Amenity Horticulture producers exported a total farm gate value of €18.5m. This was comprised of €8.3m of Hardy Nursery Stock, €1.7m of Bulbs & Cut Flowers, €4.8m of Cut Foliage and €3.7m of Christmas Trees. The UK is the only major destination for these exports and work continues for producers in diversifying away from that market.


Fresh Produce Retail Market

The Retail Fresh Produce Market was worth €1.61bn (€1.56bn March. 2019 / +3.1%) in the year ending March 2020 with Vegetables accounting for €570m (€565m / +1%), Fruit €804.7m (€776m / +3.6%) and Potatoes €235.5m (€218m / +7.4%). The retail value of prepared Fruit and Vegetables combined was €127.6m with Fruit and Vegetables representing 15.4% of the average grocery shopping basket for the same period.

Food Service Market

The Fresh Produce Food Service Market was worth €444m in 2019 an increase of 10.8% on 2017 (€396m).

Amenity Retail Market

The Retail Amenity Market was worth €795m in the measure from January to December 2018, which represented an increase of 9% on the comparable 2016 figure of €729m. Outdoor & Flowering Plants represented €166m/with a 32% share of spend, Fresh Cut Flowers €91m/17%, Indoor Potted Plants €25m an increase of 35% since the previous measure. Garden Products saw an increase of 8% with a value of €367m / 46% of the 2018 total. The Amenity market value has increased in by 9% in the last two years.

Amenity Services Market

This market has two elements, domestic services and commercial services. It is estimated that the domestic services market will be worth a total of €136m in the year ending December 2018, which would represent an increase of almost 10% on the estimated value of €124m for 2016. There are four main service type categories in this market and their estimated values for 2018 are Garden Design €17m, Garden Maintenance €52m, Garden Makeover €38 and Tree Surgeon €30m. The commercial landscaping services market recovered slowly after the recession to achieve a value of circa €200m in 2019.