‘No guarantee Irish farmers will be able to import UK straw’

There is “no guarantee” Irish farmers will be able to rely on UK straw imports to cover shortages this winter, as UK farmers are “in the same boat”, a leading farm lobby group has warned.

Gavin Carberry, chairman of the Tillage Committee at the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), has called for the immediate reconvening of the National Tillage Forum to address the “looming crisis” facing the sector.

He warned farmers: “Vast quantities of spring cereals have been written off, with spring barley crops in the northeast particularly badly hit.

Winter crops have fared a bit better; but with early ripening the yield is right down.

Carberry also noted the impact grain and straw shortages will have on other sectors.

“Drastically reduced grain yields will result in higher feed prices for beef farmers,” he said.

He outlined that the late, cold spring, followed by a harsh drought, has been a “double whammy” for tillage farmers.

Commenting on the performance of crops this year, he said: “Normally we can expect each barley seed to shoot out five or six ears of barley. However, this year only one head sprung per seed due to the lack of rain.”

The ICSA understands there were 35,000 fewer acres of cereals sown across the country this year as opposed to last year.

The ICSA tillage chairman said: “The end result is that tillage farmers will have little or no produce to sell and there’s no getting around that.

“It’s devastating for those of us trying to earn a living from tillage farming and financial supports will need to be put in place.

A drought for the tillage sector has the same impact that a fodder shortage has on other sectors.

“We do not want to see a repeat of the delays we saw in implementing supports during the fodder crisis. The crisis is here and the sector needs help now,” he concluded.