'Bord Bia must prioritise Irish grains'
Farmers must prioritise native grain "over and above" imported alternatives in order to salvage the tillage sector, it has been claimed.
Donal Fitzgerald, general manager of Goldcrop's Arable Seeds Division, says imported seeds used for animal feed is the biggest threat to struggling farmers on the ground.
"Until we get some sort of provenance rules in place that will stipulate that Irish grain should be given prominence over and above imported alternatives - especially in light of Bord Bia quality assurance schemes - we're not really grasping the nettle," he said.
"It also flies in the face of Origin Green if a farmer is allowed to use feed from Indonesia above barley from down the road. Where is the sustainability element to that?" he said.
Although grain coming in from Europe is bound by stringent European legislation, he is concerned about seed with genetically modified (GM) soya bean, maize, distillers and lupins coming in from outside of Europe.
"I know the quality of the food is fine but the consumer may not want beef that is fed on GM. The perception is that all beef produced in Ireland is fed from lovely green grass, and it's 100pc natural, but they often get some concentrate supplement and that should be sourced as much as possible from the island of Ireland," he said.
And, he says, therein lies the opportunity to create a demand which puts a floor under the price and guarantees growers a sustainable income going forward.
Speaking at the last Tillage Stakeholder Forum meeting, Mr Fitzgerald urged the Government, Bord Bia, merchants and farmers to row in behind his proposal.