After a difficult start to the year things are busy at McCormack Family Farms who have been growing baby leaf salads and herbs in Ireland for over 20 years.
The weather made planting challenging at the start of the year and heavy localised hail saw the loss of 10 ha of baby leaf and spinach for Stephen McCormack, Managing Director at McCormack’s.
“We are now having issues with the weather being too warm,” explains Stephen. “Three weeks of temperatures between 22 and 23 degrees and long day length days caused the spinach to bolt and although we didn’t lose the crop it meant yields were reduced by half. The crops are now going well though.”
Ireland is expecting highs of 27 degrees this weekend which will make harvesting challenging and the crops will need irrigating.
“This adds extra stress as we have to move our workers around and take them off other jobs to concentrate on irrigation and as workers are short supply as it is these causes a lot of extra work for others that are already very busy. Ireland has shortage of workers as we have next to no European workers anymore and the local staff that we hire don’t stick it out for long.”
Despite this Stephen said they are happy with where they are. “This business is always stressful, we are always up again one issue or another, at one time we could harvest on a Monday and Tuesday and have enough herbs to supply the market for the rest of the week, but demand is very high. Another challenge is that we cannot get supply from England to fill any small gaps as it is just not feasible since Brexit. We are sometimes stretched to the limit; we just have to get even better at what we do and grow more produce which will take more land and more people, and both are scarce.”
Overall sales are up on 2019. Outside hospitality opened in Ireland on 7th June which increased demand hugely, retail sales are around 10% less due to people and families eating out and on holiday but staying in Ireland which is good for the economy.
“We are faced with a lot uncertainty as we don’t know when inside hospitality will reopen and if the weather turns bad then the outside trade will inevitably fall.
“Our parsley and coriander is in full swing now in full swing quality is excellent and demand is good. The demand for our Irish basil is very high just now. We are very happy with the quality of all our herbs this year so far.”