Grain farmers protest at Foynes Port over imported barley

Grain farmers staged a protest in Foynes Port in Co. Limerick this morning over the importation of barley by a number of brokers/importers.

Speaking at the protest this morning, IFA Deputy President Richard Kennedy said grain farmers were extremely angry and accused those involved of aggravating an already serious income crisis on Irish tillage farmers as they source imported barley in preference to local supplies.

Today’s protest comes after the IFA was accused by some tillage farmers in the Munster region of failing to represent them adequately earlier this year with over 220 farmers formally airing their grievances with the IFA.

Quotes for grain of as low as €116/t have been offered to farmers this year with Teagasc crop costings showing that growers need to achieve a price of €152/t to break even.

Coupled with low prices, early reports from the winter barley harvest are very disappointing with yields down anywhere from 0.5t/ac to 1t/acre on last season.

The fall in yield alone before factoring in a price drop will whip approximately €7m out of winter barley grower’s pockets, the IFA says.

It says given today’s price quotes growers working off their owned ground will lose close on €100/ac.

‘Brokers up to their old tricks’

IFA National Grain Committee Chairman Liam Dunne said, brokers are up to their ‘old tricks’ of importing grain ahead of the main harvest.

“They typically use the threat of imports to undermine local prices in an effort to gain market share and boost their own earnings. In many instances, they import inferior quality barley which is high in screenings and borderline on bushel weight.

“Merchants and compound feed mills have been reluctant to quote farmers for their grain in recent days as brokers bypass the local trade and import grain, which in many instances is of inferior quality,” he said.

While the overall Irish harvest is expected to be back by 600,000t on last year, there are ample supplies of new season barley available, currently estimated at in excess of 400,000t. This is expected to rise to 1.3mt by harvest close, in addition to adequate supplies of old crop barley.”

According to Kennedy this latest action, combined with a lack of political will to address the problems faced by grain producers, posed a serious threat to grain production in this country.

He said despite repeated warnings from IFA at several high-level meetings with the EU Commission and Irish Government, they have refused to acknowledge the gravity of the deepening income crisis on many tillage farms after four consecutive years of low grain prices below the cost of production, increasing costs and reducing Direct/Greening Payments.

“The Commission must move to abolish anti-dumping and customs duties on non-EU fertiliser imports as fertilisers now account for 40% of variable production costs. The EU Competition Authority must examine the cost of EU approved plant protection products which are priced significantly lower to growers in other major grain producing regions across the world.

“In addition, the Government must ensure that tillage farmers are given priority access to low-cost working capital similar to their EU counterparts; increased GLAS payments; a TAMS investment programme; and the burden of compliance for Greening reduced,” he said.