2020 cereal harvest drops by 20% compared to 2019

The 2020 harvest report published by Teagasc estimates the production of cereals was 1.9 million tonnes in 2020. This represents a decrease of 487,000t (-20%) compared to 2019.

Overall cereal crop yields declined from 0.5t/ha (t/ha) to over 1.5t/ha depending on the crop.

Grain quality was good despite some broken weather during harvesting in August.

A combination of poor planting conditions in autumn 2019; a wet winter; followed by a drought in April and May (in the midlands and north east); and poor weather during the harvest, all combined to reduce yields in 2020. 

Straw volumes were also affected with total quantities estimated to be 30% below normal.

Cereal area

Based on the most recent information from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), the cereal area was largely similar to 2019.

However, winter cereal crops area declined by approximately 40% with the deficit being made up in the spring, with spring barley increasing from 94,000ha in 2019 to 141,000ha in 2020.

Spring oats (+136%) and spring wheat (+202%) also offset the decline in winter plantings.  

Weather impact

The early part of the harvest progressed relatively well, but broken weather in August with two storms – Storm Ellen (damaging winds) on August 19 and storm Francis (damaging rain) on August 21 – delayed harvest by up to two weeks.

This also resulted in significant grain losses in some crops while quality also suffered.

The quality of grain harvested this year was good, however conditions were not favourable for malting barley and consequently there was a smaller tonnage assembled this year.  

Current estimates indicate that the winter cereal area for 2020/2021 is similar to 2018/2019. Crops have generally been planted in good conditions and there are relatively few establishment problems reported.