Irish tillage area dropped by 10,000ha in 2017

Challenging circumstances have been at play in the Irish tillage sector over the last number of years, according to Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Andrew Doyle.

Opening today’s Teagasc National Tillage Conference, he said: “These [challenges] vary from surpluses in world grain supplies; low grain prices; trade issues, such as Brexit; increasing costs at farm level; decreasing availability of plant protection products; and weather challenges, which appear to be happening all too frequently in recent years.”

Touching on the world market situation, he said: “We have experienced another consecutive year of high grain supplies, which have outstripped demand.

With the carryover of grain stocks from previous years, we have a situation where world grain prices are depressed and this obviously has a negative effect on the grain prices obtained by producers and growers in this country.

Looking at Ireland, Minister Doyle added: “The annual cereal area in Ireland in 2017 was approximately 270,000ha, which was approximately a 10,000ha reduction on the 2016 figure.”

John Spink (Teagasc); Gerry Boyle (Teagasc director); Andrew Doyle TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Despite this fall, he stressed that the sector is “an important cog” in the Irish agri-food industry.

“The sector is a key source of grain for milling and malting and feed for the livestock sector. As a consequence, it is a significant stakeholder in our entire agri-food industry in terms of the supply of food, safety and sustainability.

“The need to maintain a viable and profitable tillage sector is acknowledged in both Food Wise 2025 and the Future of the Tillage Sector in Ireland report,” he added.

Continuing, he said: “While the challenges facing the sector – at this point in time – are real; in Ireland, we can grow cereals with the highest yields in the world and this is an advantage.

In this context, I encourage tillage growers to fully implement the advice provided by Teagasc in relation to efficient and sustainable production of crops at farm level.

Minister Doyle also highlighted the specific supports provided to tillage growers. These include the extension of the ‘low-cost’ finance to tillage growers and the provision of specific support through TAMS (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme).

Concluding on the issue of farm safety, he said: “We must work together with the single goal of preventing accidents and, therefore, saving lives and minimising serious injuries.

“After all, it is us as farmers that will benefit from improvements in safety,” he said.