Farm Ireland

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Tillage farmers are in a 'race against time'

Warning that harvest may turn into a 'salvage operation'

Padraig Furlong and Dan Nolan prepare some food for the harvesting team who were working flat out last week in Clonroche, Co Wexford. Photo: Roger Jones.
Padraig Furlong and Dan Nolan prepare some food for the harvesting team who were working flat out last week in Clonroche, Co Wexford. Photo: Roger Jones.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Some tillage farmers are experiencing 'serious' financial and psychological pressures because of the poor progress on the harvest, the IFA has warned.

Many are now pinning their hopes on a high pressure weather system moving over the country this week.

The IFA's national grain chair Liam Dunne described it as a "tough week psychologically" for farmers after virtually no progress on the harvest.

"The only saving grace is that the majority of crops are not fully ripe and weather related losses so far are minimal with quality holding," he said.

Mr Dunne said each additional day lost over this week the situation will become more serious for tillage farmers.

"Many grain farmers are under serious financial pressure as prices for guys who hadn't forward sold earlier in the season, when prices were higher, will struggle to breakeven off their own land never mind off rented ground," he said.

"It is becoming a race against time at this stage as shortening days and poorer drying condition limit harvesting hours."

He warned it may turn into a "salvage operation" this week unless the weather settles as the high pressure system that was forecast moves over the country.

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The IFA has also contacted grain merchants and asked them to provide farmers with details of support helplines such as the Farm and Rural Stress helpline - 1800 742 645 -run by the charity Console on behalf of the HSE.

Fethard-based tillage farmer Noel Delany said moisture levels in the grain have been too high to cut in recent days with only very limited harvesting capacity.

"You wouldn't blame farmers for getting distressed with the weather and money situation. We want at least €140/t to break even on barley and €150/t for wheat to break even," he said, referring to the poor prices on international markets.

Mr Delany said certain parts of the country had been badly hit by rainfall, with a rain gauge on his farm recording 31.8mm in a single night.

"Western parts and northern parts of the country are getting particularly badly hit - they're nearly as bad as in 1985," he said, adding there was a major backlog of spring barley.

Figures show the cereals area has fallen by 36,000ha over the last three years, with the IFA forecasting that this could move towards 50,000ha unless the markets improve.

Howevever, Mr Dunne said the Agriculture Minister had committed to pursuing a TAMS scheme for grain farmers to support investment in storage and drying facilities with the EU Commission in Brussels.

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