Fruit farms face ruin as downpours wreak havoc
THE wildly unpredictable weather patterns have wreaked havoc on this year's crop of summer fruits, with growers reporting the worst season in 20 years.
The country's fruit farms are facing major financial losses because the volume of fruit being produced has plummeted by up to a third.
"I've never witnessed a year like this and I'm at it more than 30 years," Jimmy Kearns, chair of the Irish Soft Fruit Growers' Association, said.
"In the southeast where I am now, I think we've experienced more bad weather than anywhere else. It has rained almost every day -- heavy downpours."
Mr Kearns, who runs Kearns Fruit Farm Ltd, based in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, supplying strawberries to SuperValu and Dunnes Stores, said the dramatic changes in weather, from soaring temperatures in March to frosty nights in May, has resulted in a lot of "bad, misshapen fruit" which cannot be boxed for sale.
In addition, the wet days and humid nights have created difficult mould problems.
Tom Malone, from the family-run business Malone's Fruit Farm, in Ballon, Co Carlow, also felt it had been his worst season in two decades, with plummeting temperatures and frosty nights in May causing "serious" damage to crops along the east coast.
"The year started wrong -- March was too fine and plants came on too fast. Then April and May were cold and bees weren't out pollinating the strawberries. Class 1 fruit is down around 60pc," he said.