Generation profile in farming 'dangerously skewed'
Fresh thinking on dealing with the generational imbalance in Irish agriculture is urgently needed to safeguard the sector's future.
Fianna Fáil TD Michael Moynihan said the current age profile of farmers was dangerously skewed and would inevitably undermine the industry's ambitious expansion targets.
Pointing to CSO figures which showed that just 6pc of farmers are under the age of 35, while 53pc are over the age of 55, Mr Moynihan said Irish agriculture faced a difficult future unless more young people can be convinced that farming was a viable career.
"There is a major challenge coming down the tracks for Irish society to replace older generations of farmers who are due to retire in the next 10-15 years," the Cork TD said. "If we want to have locally produced, high quality food, then we will need younger people choosing a career in farming."
The growing shortage of labour in farming, particularly in dairying, along with the growing number of elderly farmers, has prompted increased concern in the sector.
A recent Teagasc report found that Ireland will need approximately 6,000 new entrants into dairying over the next decade to replace retirees and meet the requirements of expanding herds. The report claimed the numbers coming through the various education routes were totally inadequate.
Macra na Feirme president James Healy said the young farmer body had been working hard to bring through new entrants. "Our Land Mobility Service is specifically catered towards generational renewal. It seeks to facilitate new collaborative arrangements between farmers such as farm partnerships, shared farming and long-term leasing," Mr Healy said.