It has been a busy start to 2019. In my role as Coordinator of the Horticulture Industry Forum (HIF), we organised a seminar on January 16th which focused on the labour crisis currently being experienced by the industry. My presentation focused on series of measures, outlined in a report I completed for HIF, that could improve the situation both in the short and medium term. One of the reasons that we are seeing a problems with labour supply is that our economy now has a current unemployment rate of 5%, which is widely regarded as a “full employment” rate. In addition, as the economies of eastern European EU states have improved, workers there are less inclined to emigrate. This labour challenge when coupled with the uncertainty of Brexit (the outcome of which, as I write remains unknown) is making the already risky business of growing food even riskier! Now add in the fact that margins are low and Climate Change is causing growing conditions to become ever more unpredictable, and you might surmise that growing crops is not an attractive business. Currently, the next generation in horticulture businesses see this and are choosing not to enter the family business. The majority of our growers are now in the 50s and 60s, and are male. So unless we start attracting young growers and female producers we will not have an industry worth talking about. This would be tragic in normal times but in a changing world with a climate that we need to fix and a world we need to feed (highlighted in the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health Report ) the plant based diet that depends on a strong sustainable horticulture industry will not be possible in Ireland unless we tackle it profoundly. And that’s part of my job! An dúshlán do 2019!