Poor weather elsewhere brings ray of sunshine here, but we can't rely on this
Published 24/08/2010 | 05:00
At the start of this year, dairying was the only sector of Irish farming that looked set for a price and income boost. And nobody was begrudging a bit of good fortune going to a sector that endured such pain in 2009, where farmers work so hard and that is such a big contributor to the overall farming economy.
But the 2010 dice have also fallen more kindly for sheep and tillage farmers. Even beef prices improved after a very slow start.
All sectors need money, but the tillage farms were badly dented by both weather and price in 2009. Previously strong farms were sliding into financial trouble.
Tillage was also the business that looked least likely to experience a windfall this year. That was until world weather delivered its direct hit on the big Canadian and Russian harvests -- the Canadians couldn't plant and the Russians couldn't harvest the wheat crop.
And like the fellow who had several birthdays at once, the weather came good for the 2010 Irish harvest, as well as price. I didn't get the cheque yet, but I expect my winter wheat return to be nearly €300/ac higher in 2010 than it was last season.
Sheep farming, too, has hit a little purple patch. Scarcity was beginning to put a floor under the sheep price, especially in the trade for cull ewes since last autumn, but nobody could have expected the factory lamb price to jump in August and not a foot-and-mouth disease scare in sight.
At the Sheep 2010 event in UCD in June, IFA sheep committee chairman James Murphy predicted the floor price for factory lamb for summer 2010 at €4.20/kg. That was his official stance. Privately, he hoped that prices wouldn't dip below the €4/kg. The happy reality is that most farmers got €4.40 to €4.50/kg for lamb in recent weeks.
That said, sheep farmers needed every cent of this price. Nobody could begrudge them their break. On the strength of one good season, they will hardly rush out to buy a Rolls-Royce or take a cruise to Bermuda.