IFA Grain Committee Chairman Mark Browne said IFA has met representatives from the mushroom compost industry to discuss the serious challenges facing the Irish tillage and mushroom sectors. He said that both sectors are interdependent, with 40% of all Irish wheaten straw being used by the composters in a normal year.
The Grain Chairman said that the main purpose of the meeting was to ensure a sustainable supply of Irish straw to the mushroom sector, with structures needed to reduce the detrimental effects of straw price volatility, in the interests of both sectors.
Mark Browne said that a combination of drought and the 6% decline in cereal area had resulted in at least a 30% reduction in Irish straw production this year, according to preliminary Teagasc figures. This severe reduction will have a serious impact on those farmers with poor yields and also straw availability for the mushroom compost industry.
The IFA Chairman added that the tillage sector had endured a number of difficult years illustrated by the fact that that since 2008, the area planted to the main cereal crops has reduced by 67,500ha, which represents a drop of over 20%.
He added that due to the poor grain prices and the cuts to CAP payments in recent years, the Irish tillage industry was now a vulnerable sector. Likewise, due to a number of factors such as sterling weakness, price deflation in the UK marketplace and input cost increases, the Irish mushroom sector is in a difficult place as seen by the number of business closures over the past two years.
Other issues discussed at the meeting were the threat of importing invasive weed species, the use of other straw types apart from wheat in composting, and the impact which any future cuts in the CAP Budget would have on the availability of Irish straw.