Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Why there's space for cautious optimism on 2017 harvest and prices

Cereal grower Denis Crowley, Crowley Farms, Carrigoon, Mallow, Co Cork harvested Meridian winter barley at Renny, Ballyhooly which yielded 3.8 tons per acre at 18pc moisture and bushelled sixty two kph. Photo O'Gorman Photography.
Cereal grower Denis Crowley, Crowley Farms, Carrigoon, Mallow, Co Cork harvested Meridian winter barley at Renny, Ballyhooly which yielded 3.8 tons per acre at 18pc moisture and bushelled sixty two kph. Photo O'Gorman Photography.
PJ Phelan

PJ Phelan

Harvest has commenced, crops are promising and we have a small lift in prices.

The winter barley harvest commenced last weekend and while it is too early to give an indicative yield there is considerable optimism.

Grain costing €130/t to produce and a price of €140/t leaves break-even on owned land and a serious deficit on conacre. Increased prices being paid for conacre by dairy farmers and the uncertainty created by Brexit has left many tillage farmers questioning their future.

Their perception is that production costs here are higher than in the rest of Europe. A report on the Competitiveness of Irish Agriculture published by Teagasc last April showed that our cost to output ratio was similar to that of France, Germany and the UK and lower than that of Denmark and Italy. Irish cereal producers were found to have a competitive advantage compared to the other European countries.

The big question is how long can we and other European countries continue to produce at or below the cost of production and what will happen if we reduce or get out of crop production?

Currently there is no problem in sourcing feedstuffs from outside of Europe but not of feedstuffs produced to European standards.

Approval of products for crop production are done in accordance with the 'Precautionary Principle' - taking preventative action in the event of uncertainty.

The 2013 ban on the use of neonicotinoids has cost European oilseed rape farming €900 million per year resulting from a 4pc reduction in yield; 6pc quality losses; €120m in production costs and €360m in associated industries.


Pyrethroid use was increased, which in itself is not desirable, resulting in 30,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and 1.4 million m3 of additional water use.

Perhaps greater significance is the fact that the shortfall of production in Europe has been met by putting ecologically rich grassland outside of Europe into arable production resulting in increased CO2 emissions and increased water consumption.

In what was described as advancing the first regulatory system in the world, Member States voted last Tuesday in favour of the European commission's proposal on scientific criteria to identify endocrine disruptors in plant protection products.

That and other decisions leaves European farmers at risk of losing most of their plant protection products. This autumn will be our last season to have Redigo Deter. Up to 80 of the current active ingredients that we rely on for crop production are at risk of losing their approval status.

Fungicides

Old reliables and indeed essentials such as Mancozeb (potatoes) and Chlorothalonil are high on the hit list. Fungicides ranging from Tilt to Proline and herbicides such as Shield and Starane and the insecticides Sumi Alpha and Karate may be for our history books.

Bearing in mind that the US EPA refused the revoke Chlopyrifos last March it is unlikely to follow the lead taken by Europe on endocrine disruptors or on the many other pesticide prohibitions.

The net result of banning neonicotinoides is likely to happen with our other crops if we continue to ban products before alternative products are researched, manufactured and approved.

Our yields and quality will suffer and the deficit will be filled with imports which will fail to meet our standards.

The volume of imports will be such that grain price will not increase, farmer incomes will suffer and arable farming will no longer be a viable option in Ireland or in Europe.

Food safety and supply has and will be the priority of farmers. Surely the uncertainty surrounding foodstuff or feed production of product produced to standards which we do not accept in Europe should exclude their importation.

Controls and sanctions implemented by Member States on farmers have often been frustrating but they have been effective in ensuring quality food. Farmers must be allowed access to a sufficient range of pesticides for that to continue. Pushing production outside of Europe makes nonsense of the 'Precautionary Principle'.

PJ Phelan is a tillage advisor based in Tipperary and is a member of the ACA and ITCA


For Stories Like This and More
Download the FarmIreland App


Indo Farming