The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) wants to see sustainable growth within the crops sector become a reality over the coming years.

“Securing 15% of the total farmed area for tillage crops is achievable,” John Murphy, vice chairman of the IFA’s grain committee confirmed.

“We have been here before. So there is no reason why we can’t achieve this level of output gain,” he said.

Murphy was speaking at the recent National Ploughing Championships in Co. Laois.

“Grain growers have had a good year. Prices look they will be very strong over the coming weeks and the harvest was completed on the back of excellent weather and ground conditions,” he continued.

“But farmers are very concerned about the coming months. All input costs have risen dramatically since the spring of this year.

“There is no prospect of this trend reversing. So we could end up with grain growers facing a major credit crunch next spring, if they are faced with extremely higher fertiliser prices at that time.

“We will be actively working with government to address these matters.”

Crops sector

Murphy grows a mix of winter wheat, winter barley, spring barley, spring wheat and fodder beet on his farm, near Enniscorthy in Co. Wexford.

The IFA had a number of key messages for tillage farmers attending this year’s Ploughing.

The number one priority on this list was the importance of delivering profitability for cereal growers on a long-term basis.

“Profitability and a strong degree of confidence in the future will grow the sector,” Murphy said.

“Crops such as beans and oilseed rape will be important in this context. There is also a tremendous potential to grow more value-added crops here in Ireland.”

According to the IFA representative, there is scope to increase the area of malting barley grown in the country from the current figure of 60,000ha up to 180,000ha.

“IFA has actively endorsed the Protein Aid Scheme and the Straw Incorporation Measure.

“We believe that government is listening to the demands of the tillage sector at the present time. In the short-term, we need to see action from government, which recognises the challenge of escalating input costs.

“But beyond that, a strategy must be put in place that will deliver long-term sustainability for cereal growers.

“If it’s simply a case of one or two profitable seasons being followed by years of significant losses, the end result will be the continuing decline of the cereal sector in Ireland.

“Growers have been here before. The want to see real change delivered that gives real hope for the future,” he concluded.