Limerick councillors predict food shortages

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Fine Gael Councillor Liam Galvin.

LIMERICK councillors have predicted food shortages coming down the tracks for Irish families unless swift action is now taken.

A special meeting of Limerick City and County Council last week called for the establishment of an Expert National Review Group on Horticulture.

Proposing the motion, Fine Gael councillor Liam Galvin explained that, due to the ongoing war in Ukraine and the global grain shortage, Ireland must do everything to ensure it becomes self-sufficient in food production in the coming months.

He said that the Government should establish an Expert National Review Group on Horticulture to include the main stakeholders and to report back in six months. This group should review food security, import substitution and employment opportunities in areas such as protected crops, soft fruits and  seed potatoes.

The former mayor, who comes from a farming background, said that Ireland imports 14 per cent of its wheat, 24 per cent of its maize, 33 per cent of its corn and 20 per cent of its fertiliser from Ukraine. In 2020, Ireland imported 103,000 tonnes of sugar beet pulp, $56m worth of fertiliser and $6.5m worth of cereals from Russia.

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“This is the talk of everywhere. It is horrific. People are talking about the cost of petrol and diesel, and how they can’t put food on the table,” Cllr Galvin commented.

“The cost of food is unaffordable. We must become more self-sufficient or we will see hunger, that is the reality of it.

Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely called for the Government to look after the vulnerable and highlighted fuel and food poverty as real issues among Ireland’s “new working poor”.

Independent councillor Jerome Scanlan said: “One way we can help ourselves is through allotments. We must encourage this for our survival.

Cllr Scanlan then asked how many councillors grew their own potatoes and vegetables?

“I ate them!” one council member replied.

Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin Sheahan took the view that the Government weren’t reacting to the issue in any kind of emergency fashion.

“I can’t believe the price of butter, milk and rashers have gone up so much,” he said.

The Adare-Rathkeale representative also urged Cllr Galvin to add the fishing industry to his motion.

“We have the finest of fleets and best of fishermen, yet boats are tied up in the harbours, because it doesn’t pay them to go out to sea.

“I like to eat fish twice a week, and a pound of steak. We should include all food industries in this motion,” Cllr Sheahan added.

Green Party councillor Seán Hartigan also supported the motion.

“I was confused there for a minute. I thought I was at a Green Party conference and not a meeting of Limerick City and County Council.

Mayor Francis Foley took the view that the price of food “has gone mad”.

“There will be a tough year or two ahead,” he added.