Independent view: Why 2010 has been a year to remember
The past year can be summed up, in farming terms, by three words: weather, prices, respect.
The year started and ended with record low temperatures and freezing conditions but this was undoubtedly a good year weather-wise for farmers. After a series of wet summers, when crops and grazing conditions often verged on disastrous and rarely rose above mediocre, everything appeared to blossom this year.
While bumper yields for maize and potatoes will have benefited some, it was the constant growth of our most important crop – grass – that laid the foundations for a good year in farming. Yes, it took a while to get going, but when it did it never stopped. Combined with excellent grazing and harvesting conditions, the sales rings, this back end, were filled with animals with the best sheen on them in years.
Of course, big yields and fat stock are no use if they aren’t fetching a decent price. There is always a case for a higher price than is currently on offer but most farmers will be quietly satisfied with the turnaround in prices across most sectors over the past 12 months.
It’s extraordinary to think that as little as 10 months ago grain merchants were guaranteeing farmers €100/t in an effort to inject some confidence into the sector. Now, grain farmers are thumbing their noses at offers of €180/t for next year’s crop.
Milk is also up 50pc on 2009, while lamb and wool are up 25pc and 100pc respectively. Now the long awaited shift in beef prices looks to be heading somewhere close to a 20pc improvement on this time last year.
But the most important change for farmers in 2010 was also probably the most subtle. For many years, the respect that farming generated was dwindling. From politicians through to consumers, farming was regarded as a lower-division industry.
But as we reflect on the year that is now coming to an end, farmers can take heart from the fact that agriculture is once again regarded as one of the key players in the recovery of the Irish economy.