Viewpoint: Cereal growers may be left empty-handed by year's end
Could cereal growers be left with nothing but their EU payments at the end of this year, even on owned land?
That's the way it's looking. I got a shock when I looked at Teagasc's excellent cereal crop margin calculator app this week. When Tim O'Donovan was doing his costings for 2016 last Christmas, there was still hope that green grain prices would be 135-145/t for barley and wheat.
Since then the price slide has continued, to the point that some farmers are being offered a harvest price of €115/t for their barley.
At this price, even if you do everything right and hit the target yields of 3.25t/ac and sell your straw for €40/ac, you will dearly pay for the pleasure of growing the crop, to the tune of €58/ac.
Naturally, if you have to pay for land rental on top of this, you move even deeper into the red zone, to the point that no EU farm payment is going to cover your losses.
And yet, auctioneers tell me that they will have no problem getting farmers to bid on conacre this spring.
"Land that was making €180/ac last autumn will still make €140/ac this spring," claimed Meath-based auctioneer, Thomas Potterton.
It would make far more sense for the farmer to sit back and let somebody else lose their shirt on the punt.