What’s the contractor ‘price’ for harvesting willow?

Yesterday, we brought you news that Bord na Mona is apparently working with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to set up a new grant scheme to promote the growing of willow as an energy crop on Irish farms.

Also Read: New grant scheme to grow willow as an energy crop on the way?

Of course, planting grants for energy crops were brought into being many years ago; limited and erratic demand for the resultant produce meant that enthusiasm for growing such crops (on the part of farmers) quickly dissipated.

Farmers and land-owners will exercise caution this time around – to ensure that there is actually a sustainable market for such crops, be it from Bord na Mona or elsewhere.

Image source: HOBESCO

It is timely, therefore, to take a look at the contractor rate for harvesting willow; whereby a self-propelled forage harvester (with a suitable, purpose-built ‘header’) and a team of tractors and trailers are used – to cut and haul the crop.

There is a small number of contractors dotted about the island of Ireland who are currently geared up for this job; they travel significant distances to the various willow plantations.

‘Guide’ rate/ac

Regular AgriLand readers will know that the FCI (The Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland) is believed to be compiling an ‘agricultural contracting charges (prices) guide’ at present.

Also Read: How do these agri contracting ‘prices’ shape up?

Willow harvesting (the complete job) is apparently ‘guiding’ at €180/ac (plus VAT). An additional charge would come into play for long draws, though what exactly constitutes a ‘long draw’ may itself be up for further debate.

willow biomass

Does this figure sound reasonable? Is it enough to cover the investment in equipment needed? From the grower’s perspective, does it leave any margin – when added to the other costs of producing this ‘crop’?

Other charge-out rates

Interestingly, the talked-about ‘guide’ rate for maize harvesting (the complete job – including rolling the pit) for 2018 is €140/ac (plus VAT).

Image source: Shane Casey

The contractor ‘price’ for harvesting whole-crop silage (again; the complete job) is guiding at €120/ac (plus VAT) for this year’s forthcoming season.

Image source: Shane Casey

The aforementioned ‘prices’ are believed to be average, guide-line prices – surveyed from FCI members. They may also change before the ‘guide’ is finally agreed by the membership.

Of course, prices can vary considerably – depending on any number of factors. Such factors might include the actual equipment used, the size of the job undertaken (number of acres, etc) or the distance travelled by the contractor to get to the job.

In all cases, they are apparently based on a (green) diesel price of 70c/L.