‘Skyrocketed’ price of fertiliser might make move to organic farming ‘more appealing’

The speed at which the price of fertiliser has increased over recent weeks has been described as “staggering” and will have “dire consequences” for tillage farm incomes.

Tillage chair of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) Gavin Carberry said that in the space of six weeks, “we have witnessed price hikes of almost 50%”.

“Nitrogen which was trading at €180/t has now skyrocketed to €300, and urea is a whopping €400. That sort of a burden is just too great to bear,” Carberry said.

“Fertiliser companies are blaming various global issues for these price increases, but what good is that to farmers who cannot increase their own prices to absorb any extra costs?

Primary producers have been forced into a position of being price-takers and most have zero opportunity to work any increase in the costs of inputs into the final price they receive.

“The bottom line is that incomes will be seriously eroded.”

Carberry said that it is completely unrealistic for farmers to be expected to take a hit like this, “and for reasons beyond their control”.

He has called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to fight for some of the €1.05 billion in Brexit aid allocated to Ireland for the tillage sector.

Move to organic farming more appealing?

Due to the sharp increase in fertiliser prices, Carberry said that the choice to move to organic farming “might be more appealing for many tillage farmers”.

“The Organic Scheme will open for applications in March and, although places in the scheme are limited, I would urge farmers to give it some consideration,” he said.

Equally, farmers could consider sowing beans to minimise their use of fertiliser.

“These options will only be useful for some tillage farmers however, and a significant number are going to need help.”