Over the past few weeks and during the next month or so, my work and travels have been connecting my personal and professional interests. At the beginning of the month, I had the wonderful experience of visiting the Carpentras market in Provence. The market takes place every Friday morning and the stalls are replete with local fresh vegetables, fruit, crafts and local products. We were looking for ingredients for a dinner and found them all bar Chillies, as they were out of season and not available! No plastic in sight either. With keen prices but all the margin going to the grower.
Around this time, results from the Local and EU Parliament elections were flooding in. Here in Ireland, the Green Party were quadrupling their number of Councillors and the Green Group in the EU parliament were experiencing an increase of over 50% in the number of their MEPs, including two from Ireland. Climate change and the pressure from Greta Thunberg’s global campaign have brought the issue to the top of the political agenda and politicised the young. Next week, I’m honoured to travel to Brussels to facilitate and moderate a two-day review of the outcome of the EU Elections by the General Assembly of the Green European Foundation and to support them to begin developing their strategy for the next 5 years.
As I prepare to head to Brussels extraordinarily high 850hPa temperatures forecast over the SE of England (as shown in the graph below), the Low Countries and France for next week. 850hPa temperatures are recorded at 5,000ft so are not affected by daily max & min. These figures if achieved would be record breaking & demonstrate a very unusual intensity of warming at altitude. This reflects the worrying trend of continuing unusual weather patterns and among other things, heightens the threats to crops and world food production.
The recent Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action Report proposed a range of government actions to tackle the challenge. The potential for Horticulture, to contribute to the strategy is specifically cited on page 68. “There is a very wide range of vegetable and fruit crops that can be grown in Ireland, the production of which could be introduced or increased at commercial scale. Furthermore, there is a growing global trend, supported by the advice in recent scientific studies, towards a more plant-based diet. The trend towards more plant-based diets represents a commercial opportunity which Irish horticulture should avail of in the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon food system. Major opportunities exist through import substitution in horticulture that would improve national food security, increase sustainable rural employment, promote a healthier diet nationally and fight obesity as well as reducing GHG emissions. Horticulture (€433m 2017) is the 4th largest sector in terms of gross agriculture commodity output value with only the dairy, cattle and pigs’ sectors being larger. Despite its relative scale, horticulture has very few Teagasc advisers and more advisory supports are required to encourage greater food crop production.”
The Government Climate Action Plan was published this week and regrettably did not expressly include the focus the Oireachtas Committee placed on the potential for horticulture. However, through my role as Coordinator of the Horticulture Industry Forum (HIF), I will continue to work with members of HIF to develop the industry’s capacity to play its full role in the fight against Climate Change. Climate Change also challenges Ireland’s food supply chain and underlines the need to develop and sustain the country’s indigenous producers of fresh produce. Amenity producers have also a strong role to play in broadening the use of plants and enhancing biodiversity. The country needs to foster a vibrant more prosperous horticulture industry in Ireland, and we must all work together to achieve this!