‘We have to avoid a scenario where we are importing fodder’

Ireland has to avoid a scenario where it is forced to import grass-based fodder, according to Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue.

Deputy McConalogue spoke to AgriLand at a consultative conference – which was organised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Newbridge, Co. Kildare, today (Wednesday, July 4).

At the conference – which was addressed by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed – the Donegal TD underlined the importance of preparation and continued assessment of fodder stocks.

While the Fianna Fail representative admitted that there is the potential for a fodder shortage next winter, he said: “I don’t think importing fodder should be something we are aiming to do.

The absolute objective has to be making whatever fodder resources we have stretch. The problem last year was that there really wasn’t enough emphasis put on that – because there was a denial mentality from the minister and the department.

“We advocated a meal voucher last year; the department instead introduced a subsidy scheme to transport grass-based fodder around the country, which we didn’t feel was the most useful way [to deal with the shortage].

“It led to problems later on where the counties which had been exporting fodder, then had to import fodder from other counties and indeed from abroad.

“I think we have to avoid a scenario where we are importing grass-based fodder,” he said.

Deputy McConalogue stated that the importation of fodder must only be considered in a time of “absolute emergency” or “desperation”.

Drought conditions

The prolonged drought conditions the country is experiencing at the moment is “the last thing farmers needed“, Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson added.

It has severely impacted on grass growth levels and has forced farmers to feed fodder, which was originally put aside for next winter, to livestock now. As well as this, it is likely to impact on the yields of second-cut silage, he said.

There is very little you can do about the weather; all you can do is be as prepared as possible and respond to in any way you can.

Need for preparation

The importance of preparation was underlined by the Fianna Fail TD, who believes that last year’s fodder crisis caught both the minister and his department “on the hop”.

Deputy McConalogue stated that the industry needs to know where it stands going into the winter and that “precautionary measures can be taken early in the event that reserves are shown to be low”.

Concluding, he said: “It’s still early to be talking about that; hopefully the weather will pick up.

“We have to be fully prepared this year. I know the department has launched a survey already; it’s important that that would continue.

We have to plan well in advance, assess where we’re at and deal with it through concentrates where necessary. The immediate focus now has to be on actually ensuring that every effort is made to replenish fodder stocks.

“That’s very difficult at the moment, but hopefully things will improve.”