Tillage sector now looking at a collapse in farm income – IFA

The value of the tillage sector is estimated to be down by 15% due to the difficult harvest according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and a collapse in incomes is expected.

Mark Browne, the IFA’s Grain Committee chairperson, has said that tillage farmers have endured a torrid season.

“A wet autumn/winter was followed by drought conditions in late spring, culminating in a very difficult harvest,” he stated.

Using preliminary estimates and current spot grain prices, the IFA estimates that, when compared to 2019, the overall farm-gate value of the Irish tillage sector could drop by at least 15%.

It’s likely that the main cereal harvest will come in somewhere between 1.9 million tonnes and 2 million tonnes.

“While oats tonnage is down on last year, the real hit is on barley and wheat where the combined output will be down approximately 400,000t,” Browne said.

“After a very difficult harvest, the majority of it is now finished. However, there are pockets of spring crops still to be finished along with the bean crops.

“Yields have remained very variable. Some of the spring barley crops were promising good late yield potential. However, the continuation of the broken weather scuppered this hope for a lot of farmers,” he added.

Collapse in tillage-farm incomes

According to Teagasc, tillage farm incomes fell by 15% in 2019 compared to 2018.

Mark Browne said we are now looking at a collapse in farm income, following consecutive years of significant declines for the sector. This is unsustainable, final harvest grain prices must rise significantly just to cover production costs.

The government must support tillage farmers. Any reduction of funding for the sector under the next CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] will decimate the sector.

Maize imports undermining value of Irish grain

The statement from the IFA outlined how imports of maize from third countries hit approximately one million tonnes in 2019/2020 and noted how these imports, which are produced to lower regulatory and environmental standards, are undermining the value of quality-assured Irish grain.

The access to low-cost finance was outlined as another issue for the sector, along with the loss of Plant Protection Products (PPPs), access to new crop breeding technologies, support for renewables and limited research and development.

Mark Browne stated that he is looking forward to a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to discuss these issues.