Provisional area figures from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine regarding planted cereal area in Ireland indicate the continued lack of confidence in the sector, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Commenting on the matter, IFA grain chairman Mark Browne said while it is a positive that the area under cereals has stabilised, it is still the second lowest planted area on record.

The chairman noted that the 2019 Teagasc Farm Survey indicates an average rise in tillage farm incomes – but stressed, however, that this comes after successive years of poor farm returns.

“It belies the fact that growers (particularly of spring crops) had another poor year due to drought conditions,” he added.

Since 2012 the tillage acreage has dropped by almost 20%.

“This is of major concern considering that imports of grain for livestock feedstuffs have increased significantly, with maize in particular having trebled in tonnage during this same period,” Browne said.

“Substituting imports for Irish native grains results not only in the loss of millions of euros to the rural economy but is undermining Ireland’s credentials in relation to Origin Green and our carbon footprint.”

Browne warned that the price of quality-assured Irish grain cannot continue to be dictated by the price of imported GM feedstuffs.

Such products do not conform to the regulatory and environmental standards demanded by the EU Commission and the Irish Government, the chairman concluded.