A Co Derry cereal grower has expressed deep dismay at the large tonnages of straw being imported from the Republic of Ireland at the present time, given that there will be ample quantities of high quality product available from local producers over the coming weeks.

“The winter barley harvest is now underway in Northern Ireland,” Richard Kane told Agriland.

“And I know, having spoken to other cereal growers, that large tonnages of exceptionally high quality straw will be available this year. So, in reality, there is no need for livestock farmers here in Northern Ireland to import product from the Republic.

“The winter cereal acreage has increased significantly this year. In reality, we are back on track given the horrendous impact of the weather during the 2011 and 2012 planting seasons.

“The reality is that local livestock farmers want consumers in Northern Ireland to buy their milk, beef and lamb. And this is the way it should be! But, based on the same principle, these very same farmers should be prepared to support their arable colleagues at a time when there is more than enough locally produced straw to meet their needs.”

Richard Kane continued:“I can well understand the need for livestock farmers to look South for their straw requirements in a year when local supplies are insufficient to meet their needs. But this is not the case in 2014.”

He concluded:“Dairy farmers are under pressure to reduce the Carbon Footprint of their businesses at the present time. And, in my opinion, hauling straw hundreds of miles hardly meets this requirement.  I am also deeply concerned about the possibility of importing Black Grass in straw brought into Northern Ireland from other regions. The seeds could quite easily be spread in animal dung. Coping with Black Grass is currently the biggest challenge facing cereal growers in many parts of the British Isles. Thankfully, it’s a problem that we do not have in Northern Ireland. So let’s keep it that way!

“Cereals are only grown in a relatively small numbers of areas here in Northern Ireland. So it shouldn’t be difficult for our livestock producers to find out how they can source straw that has been produced on local farms.”