Farmers seeking tax reliefs as agricultural prices take a tumble
Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30
AMID the bustle of this year's Ploughing Championships, latest figures show dairy farmers are feeling the pinch.
Farmers are likely to use this week's ploughing championship to urge the Government to commit to further tax reliefs given what they say are increasingly difficult times for the sector.
Figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) last week showed that dairy farmers are enduring a particularly tough year, with the price of milk down 9.3pc since July 2015. Egg prices are also down 4.4pc, while the sums fetched for wool have fallen by 32.2pc.
Poultry farmers have received a modest 0.4pc more for their output this year, while pig farmers are receiving just 1.3pc more in 2016. The price for sheep increased by 6.4pc.
The situation for crops has been mixed, with cereal prices up 4.5pc and vegetables up by 0.8pc. However, the prices received for potatoes has come down by 23.1pc compared to a year previously. The price of feedstuffs declined by an overall 2.1, with feed for calves 4.7pc lower in the year to July. Pig feed was 3.7pc cheaper while poultry feed was down 6.5pc.
Losses in overall income for farmers was offset by a decline in energy prices, with the price of electricity down 2.3pc, while motor fuel costs declined by a more significant 11.9pc.
The cost of lubricants increased by 1.1pc.
Overall, the cost of fertilisers came down by 17pc. PK fertilisers fell by 7.2pc, with (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium fertilisers (NPKs) dropping 17.9pc. Veterinary expenses across the country rose by 1.7pc, while plant protection products showed a rise of 2.5pc.
George Collier, county chairman of the Carlow branch of the Irish Farmers Association, said: "All categories of farming are under pressure.
"For example, there has been a huge expansion in dairying over the last few years, but the reality is a lot of that is borrowings. So with the income coming down significantly in that sector, it means it can be hard for farmers to earn a living."
Mr Collier underlined the plight of tillage farmers, adding that farmers need to support one another during such difficult times. "Tillage farming has had a terrible time this year. On the western seaboard a lot of harvests haven't even been cut at this stage." Mr Collier said.
"A lot of the grain this year is being imported. Ireland is only 80pc self-sufficient when it comes to grain use. It is vital that Irish farmers use Irish grain."
Mr Collier stated that the nature of global markets meant farmers were in a more precarious position than ever: "The issue of volatility in the global market is something that's here to stay.
"Farmers might have one good year, but if prices around the globe mean a fall for the next three, the question is, can they survive for those years?"
Farmers attending the Ploughing Championships this week will be keeping a keen eye on the Global Dairy Trade futures markets this week, with the index pointing to an 8-10pc rise in whole milk powder prices over the coming months. The most recent auctions have all shown increases, and a repeat this week could see farmers receive a boost to milk prices for August.
It is understood that some Irish co-ops increased their milk prices this month.
Any rise in prices would come as a welcome relief to dairy farmers, who are expected to ask the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine to allocate increased tax reliefs for farmers ahead of next month's Budget.