Farmers more optimistic as milk and grain prices rise
THE future is looking brighter for farmers after a very difficult few years, Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith said yesterday.
He was speaking at the opening of the Tullamore AIB National Livestock Show, which attracted a record crowd of over 60,000.
Taoiseach and local TD Brian Cowen, who was among those attending the event at the Butterfield estate near Tullamore, agreed things were markedly better than last year in farming.
"There's a far better buzz about it, a far greater degree of confidence coming back to the industry, thankfully," Mr Cowen said.
"That's based on the fact we're having better prices in milk and grain, particularly this year. We've come through a couple of difficult years and farmers are just trying to get back to where they were.
"The farming community need to know the market prices are going to be good, that there's a return on their investment," he added.
Mr Smith said a new Teagasc report had predicted farm output would rise by €300m this year. Dairy farmers should see profits increase by 70pc as milk prices rise after a disastrous 2009. And sheep farmers should see a 28pc increase in profits thanks to lower costs and higher prices, he said.
"I am pleased that after a very difficult few years, things are looking a great deal brighter for our agriculture this year," said Mr Smith. "Teagasc has estimated the value of farm output will increase by over €300m compared to last year. This is good news for farmers and their families, and is also very positive for the whole rural economy," he said.
The Government recently launched a Food Harvest 2020 strategy report aimed at boosting Irish food exports to €12bn in the next 10 years.
This included 50pc growth in milk output, 20pc growth in beef and 20pc increase in sheep.
AIB agribusiness director Michael Dowling said that farm incomes had fallen by 40pc in the last two years, but the industry was rebounding in 2010 and incomes should be up by 30pc.
However, the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) warned that continuing low beef prices meant the number of beef cows had fallen by 150,000 since its peak in 2005, resulting in a loss in output of €150m per year.
IFA livestock chairman Michael Doran called on the Minister for Agriculture to restore the payment rate of €80 per cow under the Suckler Cow Welfare scheme that was cut to €50 last year.
"The suckler cow herd is the basis of quality Irish beef exports and our ability to penetrate higher priced UK and European retail outlets," he said.
Irish beef prices are 3pc below last year's levels and up to 40c per kg less than European prices.