2021: Optimism as demand for home-grown grain increases

The recent uplift in grain prices and the increase in this year’s area of autumn-sown cereals have combined to give Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Grain Committee chairman Mark Browne cause for optimism that Ireland’s cereal growers can look forward to 2021.

“Demand for home grown grain continues to strengthen. There will be no carryover of stocks into the New Year,” Browne said.

“All of this is positive. Looking ahead, there is every prospect of the drinks sector becoming more active in terms of their involvement with Irish farmers.

Demand for premium quality Irish grain continues to increase across the board. This is evident courtesy of the activity taking place within the distilling and milling sectors.

Adding to the positivity within the grain sector is the recent government decision to make a €10 million straw chopping fund available.

“We will see how this plays out in 2021,” said Browne.

“However, the scheme should help establish a realistic floor for straw prices in 2021.”

The IFA representative is also confident that Irish cereal production can become carbon negative in the very near future.

Browne commented:

“We are almost there already. Looking ahead, a combination of new crop management options and the growing of green cover crops during the winter months should get us over the line in this regard.

It is very evident that premium customers for Irish grain will be very keen to highlight the environmental standards achieved by the cereals sector, when it comes to the future marketing of their own products.

“Irish agriculture needs a vibrant tillage industry. Quite apart from the obvious need to produce our own grain, tillage farms are critically important when it comes to the effective utilisation of organic manures produced on intensive livestock farms.”

Cheap imports

But it’s not all good news. According to Browne, cheap grain imports continue to represent a very real threat to the Irish grain industry.

“Ireland continues to be used as a convenient dumping ground for cheap maize grown in third world countries,” Browne added.

This is an EU issue. And it’s all about creating a level playing field. Brussels must act to stop the importation of maize, which is not grown to the standards demanded of European farmers.

The IFA representative noted the €50 increase in maize prices that had taken effect over the past six months.

“This change has made all the difference from the point of view of delivering sustainable prices for Irish grain growers,” he concluded.