IFA President Joe Healy has called on Minister Creed to urgently establish and convene a National Tillage Forum, including key industry stakeholders to devise an action plan to address the serious and deepening income crisis in the tillage farming sector. Joe Healy made his call in an address to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture this week.
Mr Healy said, “Irish grain farmers are facing a severe income drop this season of up to €100m due to a combination of poorer prices, convergence in Greening and Basic Payments, high input and working capital costs coupled with reduced yields and crops that may not be harvested.
“Without political intervention, Ireland’s tillage sector is in imminent danger of collapse, with major implications for the entire livestock sector and our world-renowned drinks industry. I am calling on the Minister to immediately convene a meeting a National Tillage Forum of key stakeholders to devise an action plan to address the serious crisis in the sector.”
IFA Grain Chairman Liam Dunne said, “While the harvest is well advanced in eastern counties, 25% to 30% of the grain remains in the field in the rest of the country and the situation is very serious in parts of the west and north-west where up to 75% of the spring barley crop remains to be cut. This is compounding the deepening income crisis on tillage farms, which are enduring the fourth consecutive year of harvest prices below the cost of production.”
IFA has identified the following issues as crucial to the survival of the tillage sector:
- Recognition of the tillage crisis and the introduction of a specific aid package for the sector;
- Development of an Irish grain certification scheme:
o to maximise the use of native grain and proteins in Irish livestock rations in support of Irish growers; and
o to ensure that harmful weed seeds such as blackgrass and sterile brome etc. are not inadvertently imported into the country;
- Abolition of tariffs and anti-dumping duties on fertiliser imports as fertilisers now account for 40% of variable production costs;
- Review by the EU Competition Authority of the cost of plant protection products which are priced significantly lower to growers in other regions across the world;
- Priority access to low-cost working capital similar to their EU counterparts;
- Increased GLAS payments;
- Increased funding to allow for the expansion of the protein crop area eligible to receive the full coupled payment;
- Immediate roll out of the TAMS investment programme; and,
- A reduction in the burden of compliance for Greening.
The IFA President said, “The Irish cereal sector is in danger of falling into terminal decline unless immediate and decisive action is taken to reverse the dramatic fall in incomes. Since 2012, the Irish cereal area has fallen by over 100,000ac and this trend will accelerate unless there is a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for grain growers.”