Saturday 31 January 2015

Farmers saved from financial ruin

Published 14/09/2012 | 05:00

Brothers Peter, Mark and Paddy McGuinness from Richardstown, Dunleer, run through their father’s field of winter wheat at Togher, Co Louth yesterday before the combine harvester moves in.
The combine harvester moves in on a field of winter wheat at Togher, Co Louth.

FARMERS are heaving a collective sigh of relief after they were saved from financial ruin.

The fine weather of the past fortnight came just in time for them to save their barley, wheat and oat crops.

Fields had been left waterlogged by the continuous wet weather during the summer, leaving farmers unable to use their combine harvesters.

The harvest was delayed by up to five weeks in some counties, as they were forced to wait for fields to dry out.

Further rainfall would have turned the cereal harvest into a disaster.

"The fields were like swamps," said Wexford farmer Michael Doran.

"We had combines sinking in the field.

"There was no point even trying if you were going to damage machinery."

Mr Doran's wheat and barley harvest ran more than four weeks late, starting in September instead of early August.

"We had so much rain down here in Wexford that I saw ducks swimming in my wheat field one day," he said.

The past fortnight's long-awaited dry spell finally saw the majority of the country's 800,000 acres of cereal crops cut, with a staggering 480,000 acres cut in the last 15 days alone.

Now fewer than 40,000 acres of crops remain to be cut in the north Dublin, Meath and Louth region.

Co Louth cereal grower Tony McGuinness, who farms with his brothers Jack and Pat, said the family had up to 600 acres still to cut and the combines would be rolling for another 10 days.

Carlow-based agricultural consultant Pat Minnock described the 2012 harvest as one of the most difficult and frustrating in recent times.

"With rainfall levels at record highs for the harvest period, it is remarkable how the harvest was eventually able to be completed," Mr Minnock said.

However, while the harvest is now almost complete, the summer's unprecedented rain has taken a heavy toll on yields. High disease levels and harvesting difficulties have cost farmers up to €100m, according to the IFA.

Yields are down 20pc on average, with some farmers losing half their expected crop to disease.

The national harvest of 800,000 acres of cereals was valued at €500m last year, but has fallen to €400m in 2012.

Michael Doran said his winter wheat crop was one of the worst affected, recording a yield of just two tonnes per acre this year, compared with close to five tonnes per acre in 2011.

"The harvest will only cover about half the cost of growing the crop," he pointed out. "It costs me €480 per acre to produce wheat, but I will only receive €280 per acre for my crop so I'm losing €200 per acre"

Irish Independent

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