The Irish Grain Growers’ Group (IGGG) has said that the tillage sector has far greater potential to grow but will require substantial government funding.
The Irish tillage sector, which accounts for 7% of land use, has an estimated output of €1.3 billion and employs 11,000 people.
The IGGG, which was formed in 2016, has claimed that there is a renewed vigour among growers who are now more prepared “to speak up and fight” for the sector.
The group said that the message from Brussels is changing and it should be to the advantage of tillage farmers.
“Flexitarian diets, plant-based protein sources, sustainable sourcing, low greenhouse gases (GHG), soil health, carbon sequestration, green architecture, hi-tech farming, farm to fork, food miles, all are languages being spoken now.
“The consumer, especially the younger consumer, is increasingly asking these questions of their food, cosmetics, clothes and drinks.
“The industry is responding but it cannot be lost opportunity for our Irish tillage sector and subsequently the Irish exchequer,” IGGG said.
The group said the government, Bord Bia, Teagasc, banks and Enterprise Ireland need to focus on developing the sector, including product support through new or existing companies.
“Far greater investment must be secured for the sector going forward to secure added value to what we grow as raw materials,” IGGG noted.
Increased primary production, the group said, would reduce the growing dependency on imported agricultural by-products.
Last week, the EU announced a push towards more plant-based diets in its agri-food promotion policy.
The IGGG said the most recent Irish budget allocated €70 million for the promotion dairy and beef produce, however there was no similar funding for the tillage sector.
“Our Irish government must catch up with the direction of thinking of the EU and put substantial funding into the tillage sector going forward.”
The IGGG welcomed a move by Bord Bia to investigate the future potential of the tillage sector.
The group noted the development of the Straw Incorporation Measure (SIM) but said ring fencing the area under tillage should not be considered.