Farmers who buy compound feed rations have been urged to insist on Irish grains, according to a farm-lobby group’s grain chairman.

The Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) Grain Committee chairman, Mark Browne, has said: “Some feed merchants are producing rations which contain little or no Irish grain and have replaced it with maize grain from non-EU sources.

“Irish tillage farmers are angry at the reduction in the use of Irish grains, considering Irish wheat and in particular barley is still readily available in store.

“We are forecast to import in excess of 1.3 million tonnes of maize for the current marketing year with the majority of this originating in Canada, Brazil and Ukraine.”

Also Read: 1.6 million tonnes of maize imported – up 43% on 2017

Browne outlined that the EU has agreed deals with certain countries without demanding an equivalence in environmental or production standards.

The tillage chairman said it is “unacceptable” that Irish grain growers are forced to compete with non-EU feedstuffs which, he said, have “regulatory and competitive advantages in relation to GM technology, fertiliser costs and use of plant protection products”.

The absence of a level playing field has resulted in a reduction of 67,500ha in area planted to the main cereal crops, which represents a drop of over 20% in the past 10 years.

Continuing, Browne stressed: “Grain farmers have experienced successive years of poor prices and although prices improved for harvest 2018, many grain farmers failed to benefit due to poor yields.”

Also Read: 372,000t of barley imported in 2018…from where?

He said “it is hypocritical” of the EU Commission to increase the regulatory burden on local cereal producers while allowing increased access to non-EU feedstuffs produced to different standards.

Commenting on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) he said: “Irish tillage farmers have been disproportionately affected by the current CAP due to convergence and greening measures; therefore, any further reduction in supports under CAP 2020 cannot be tolerated.

Tillage farming has become a vulnerable sector and in order to prevent further decline in the area, urgent political action is needed at local and EU level.

Concluding, the IFA grain chairman emphasised the importance of the arable sector within the broader agricultural industry and reminded farmers that “it underpins” Ireland’s €12.6 billion livestock, dairy, drinks and mushroom export sectors.