‘It is vitally important that European fodder is secured while it is still available’

Given the extent of the fodder deficit in Ireland, it is vitally important that European fodder is secured while it is still available, according to the CEO of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), TJ Flanagan.

Flanagan called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to immediately put in place measures to address the ongoing fodder crisis.

Commenting on the situation, he said: “Earlier in the year, when we were affected by a desperately late spring, co-ops were proactive in supporting farmers and provided a very efficient mechanism for the sourcing and transport of badly needed fodder.

“We’re now in a similar, but potentially much worse, situation and co-ops are again faced with having to procure and provide feed.

The minister must immediately take action before the situation deteriorates further. It is vitally important that catch crops are sown immediately and that European fodder is secured while it is still available.

The CEO of ICOS – the organisation which represents the dairy processing co-operatives and co-operative livestock marts in Ireland – outlined that farmers are in the midst of an unprecedented drought.

‘Co-ops bearing the brunt of efforts to help farmers’

Continuing, he added that there is an escalating gap between fodder stored and predicted winter demand.

“Unless measures are implemented without delay to support the sourcing of supplementary fodder, the gap won’t be bridged and we will be facing an even more difficult situation than experienced in the spring.

“To date, co-ops have been bearing the brunt of efforts to help farmers – between sourcing concentrates and specially formulated rations, providing extended credit and rebates on purchases, running workshops and acting as intermediaries to source fodder locally.

It’s now high time that the other stakeholders – including the banks and the department – stepped up to help alleviate the situation.

Flanagan acknowledged that no individual measure will bridge the gap on fodder requirements.

However, he urged the minister to immediately announce a series of measures to alleviate the situation – including: incentives for the growth of catch crops; flexibility for farmers bound by the Green, Low-carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) and nitrate restrictions; and a “comprehensive support” for the importation of supplementary fodder from the continent.

Low-cost loan products

Furthermore, Flanagan stated that it is important that banks and the department develop low-cost loan products to alleviate the pressure mounting on farmers and their co-ops.

Farmers will be facing significant tax bills in the autumn and current cash flow is simply inadequate to carry the total burden.

“ICOS reiterates its call, made in the lead up to the budget, for the development of income stability tools – which, if available over the recent past, would have allowed farmers to mitigate the worst of this income volatility,” Flanagan concluded.