Northern Ireland soft fruit growers team up to chart path for growth

Northern Irish growers have formed a Northern Ireland Soft Fruit Growers Association (NISFGA) to represent the sector's interests, boost best practice and help it meet growing demand.

Peter Donnelly - image: NISFGA
Peter Donnelly - image: NISFGA

The region's soft fruit output is officially put at just £700,000 a year, dominated by strawberries (184 tonnes), followed by raspberries (20t) and gooseberries (9t).

This contrasts with both its top fruit sector, valued at £10m a year, and by the soft fruit sector in the Irish Republic, valued at €37 million (£30m) - a figure that has risen by 190 per cent over the past decade thanks to a government-backed programme of capital investment.

The new association plans to promote its Love Local consumer campaign, and is currently consulting with growers and officials to determine how the industry can best be supported.

The need for such an association emerged from a government-backed project in which six growers shared information, visited strawberry farms in Great Britain and the Netherlands, attended training courses and hosted specialist agronomists on their farms.

Newly appointed chairman of NISFGA Co Tyrone grower Peter Donnelly, said: "The learning we all experienced as a result of the supply chain programme was incredible.

"We are a long way behind our counterparts in GB and the RoI in terms of investment and infrastructure, but with our new-found knowledge we have now a clear roadmap of where this sector needs to go."


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