Price of spuds soars by 85pc as long winter delays crops
FAMILIES have been hit with a 10pc hike in the cost of locally produced food because of the cold winter and delayed spring.
Prices for staples like potatoes, broccoli, flour and meat have shot up since January 2012, new Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show. The biggest hike was in a 10kg bag of spuds, which rose from €5.06 to €9.34 – or by 85pc.
And further hikes are likely to follow as the bitterly cold start to the year and the subsequent late spring means home-grown crops are taking longer to ripen and come to market, which will lead to higher prices.
Beekeepers have also warned there is a real threat to honey supplies this year as disease and the bad weather have decimated hives.
One beekeeper in Westmeath said he does not expect to produce any honey this year. This is because bees have been unable to mate, resulting in hives being decimated and less honey being produced.
The Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Associations, which has 2,500 members, said the problem was weather related.
"We've had bad summers before, but because of the wind, rain and lack of sunshine, we've had serious problems with colonies wanting to swarm, but the queens being unable to mate with drones which refused to fly because there wasn't calm conditions," said midlands secretary Jim Donohoe.
"This year, we had a delayed winter where bees couldn't fly. The flowers were delayed coming out, and that crucial period meant bees died from old age. All of this combines to about 50pc of colonies being lost. If we don't get milder weather, the losses will be closer to 75pc.
"The possibility for re-building is almost zero for this year."
The losses have had knock-on implications for the wider agricultural sector, as bees play a critical role in pollinating many crops. The value to the economy from pollination by bees is estimated at €53m a year.
Experts said last year's poor summer, coupled with a long winter in which temperatures plummeted to the lowest on record in March, had delayed the growing seasons.
The price of animal feed on the global markets has also fed into higher prices in the shops.
CSO figures show the highest increases have been in potatoes (up 85pc), broccoli (20pc), brown flour (17pc), topside or rib roast beef (14pc) and a kilogramme of pork sausages (13pc). Rises have also been recorded for white flour, chicken, tomatoes, carrots, pork, ham, eggs and mushrooms.
Some products, though, have fallen in price, including lamb, onions, milk, Irish cheddar cheese and butter.
"There's price volatility, and there will be into the future," the Irish Farmers' Association said.
"The big story for us this year is going to be the extra cost of producing food because of the extraordinary weather and the poor harvest last year.
"There is a very severe cost pressure on producers because they have to buy feed in the middle of May and the repercussions will be felt for some time to come."