In 2017, DAFM sources estimate that the Horticulture industry was worth €433 m. This places the industry as the 4th largest sector in terms of gross agriculture commodity output value with only Dairy, Cattle and Pigs sectors being larger. Horticulture has a significantly higher output that Sheep €263m, Cereals €237m and Poultry €163 m. Of the €433m total output, Horticulture Food represented €359m and Amenity Horticulture €74m.
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 2015 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.
The majority of horticulture output in Ireland is consumed in the country. Just two sectors have a significant export trade. 77% of Irish grown mushrooms with a farmgate value of €91m were exported in 2017. Amenity Horticulture producers exported a total farmgate value of €17m. This was comprised of €7m of Hardy Nursery Stock, €1.3m of Bulbs & Cut Flowers, €4.8m of Cut Foliage and €4.8m of Christmas Trees. The majority of Amenity exports go to the UK but some go to mainland Europe, particularly Cut Foliage. Brexit is a major challenge for all UK exports.
Fresh Produce Retail Market
The Retail Fresh Produce Market was worth €1.54bn (€1.51bn Sept. 2017 / +1.2%) in the year ending September 2018 with Vegetables accounting for €573m (€576m / -0.5%), Fruit €768m (€744m / +3.2%) and Potatoes €195m (€194m / +0.5%). The retail value of prepared Fruit and Vegetables combined was €122m 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 €396m in 2017 an increase of 11.5% on 2013 (€355m). Vegetables accounted for €166m, Fruit €95m and Potatoes €135m of this market.
Irish amenity produce is sold on both the Amenity Retail Market and Amenity Services Market.
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 had attained a recorded level of about €800m before the recession. It is now estimated to have recovered to about €500m and is growing annually.