Brexit troubles for tillage ‘not being highlighted enough’

The uncertainty facing the tillage sector as a result of Brexit is not being highlighted enough, according to the Irish Grain Growers’ Group.

Among these uncertainties, the farming organisation highlights, are the issues of seed imports, fertiliser imports, availability of chemicals and cross-border trade.

The group also argued that the fallout for the beef and dairy sectors would have a knock-on effect for the tillage sector, asking “where would we go with our produce” if those sectors, particularly beef, took a significant hit.

Policy makers and lobby groups must rethink their medium to long-term strategy for Irish agriculture. Food Wise 2025 and Food Harvest 2020 have failed for the Irish tillage farmer.

“The area under tillage has fallen dramatically. We have lost our sugar industry; Irish grain use in our flour milling industry is practically gone; and we have lost our ability to be self-sufficient in feeding our livestock – with imports of grain rising dramatically,” argued the association.

The group claimed in a statement that these problems may impact Ireland’s reputation for quality and traceability.

“The rolling out of the ‘old chestnut’ of blaming pesticides for the decline of the biodiversity and micro-organisms in Ireland is simply not expanding the debate wide enough, especially in a country where the tillage area is so small,” the statement said.

We cannot even benefit from the boom in the Irish brewing and distilling industry, partly due to technical files introduced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Surely this must be reviewed by the department.

“Our focus must be post-Brexit now. We must consider indigenous food and feed production, a closed-loop system, where we can stand over every part of the food chain, whether it’s GMO-free fed cows for dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken or pork products,” the group argued.

It concluded by saying: “We need a change in our agricultural policy; let’s use Brexit as the springboard to launch that change. Tillage must be to the forefront.”