‘If fertiliser can’t be spread it’ll be the start of fodder crisis 2019’

Concerns over farmers’ access to credit to purchase fertiliser were tabled during a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine yesterday (Wednesday, April 11).

While the committee met to discuss the current fodder crisis; the importance of ensuring that farmers will have flexible access to credit to buy fertiliser – as soon as weather conditions improve – was underlined to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

Addressing the meeting, Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill said: “The situation will arise out there where farmers, when they go to purchase fertiliser, will have their lines of credit cut off.

They will say that you have exceeded your credit limits due to the amount of feed that you have bought and some farmers won’t get access to fertiliser. This would exacerbate the problem going forward and would increase the shortages for next winter.

With stocks of fodder in the country already running low; access to fertiliser for farmers “cannot be underestimated”, Fianna Fail senator Paul Daly added.

“Their credit with their merchant is at its limit from buying meal and they will not be able to afford to buy fertiliser, which is going to be needed more so than ever before this year because of the weather we have had over the last seven months.

“To build back up the stock that has been used, we are going to need exceptional silage crops this year.

If a farmer is not in a position to spread their fertiliser; we’re at the start of fodder crisis 2019 already.

‘Farmers haven’t got the money’

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein’s agriculture spokesperson stated that farmers – especially in the west and north-west – simply have “no money”.

Even if loans are made available through financial institutions; deputy Kenny believes that some farmers would struggle to make repayments given the tight margins in farming.

“Farmers haven’t got the money; that’s something that needs to be recognised in all of this.

The agri-food industry is such an important industry in Ireland and it is a huge contributor to our economy. But, unfortunately, the primary producer are not the ones making all of this money; the money is made elsewhere.

“The primary producer is at the bottom rung of the ladder,” he said.

‘Appropriate actions’

In his response, Minister Creed agreed that if “appropriate action” wasn’t taken now; next year’s fodder crisis could already be “within sight“.

On fertiliser, he said: “As temperatures rise; it is imperative that fertiliser is applied as ground conditions improve so that we get the cycle of growth back going again.”

However, the minister stated that his information indicates that banks and co-ops are not presenting any “impediments” to farmers who are looking to secure fodder or fertiliser as yet.

I am conscious that this prolonged winter will have put some individual farmers under pressure in terms of cash flow. In recognition of this, I have invited the CEOs of the main banks to meet with me to discuss the current cash flow and liquidity position of the primary sector.

“I will emphasis to them the nature of the situation and I will ask that they be flexible and put in place measures to support their customers.

“My department liaises with the banks on an ongoing basis and the banks have indicated that there are no signs that there is a liquidity issue across the sector as a whole; while acknowledging that there may be pressures in individual cases,” the minister said.