Bioenergy backlash as farmers seek help
Frustrated farmers will be abandoning the bioenergy sector en masse unless Government support for the industry improves.
Speaking at the Teagasc Bioenergy Conference in Athlone on Wednesday, IFA alternative land use chairman JJ Kavanagh predicted a mass exodus of growers from energy crops, despite the fact the Government currently spends €300m a year on imported fossil fuels.
Low profitability in the sector has seen five plant oil facilities close over the last year, while €10,000-worth of willow plants were dumped because of delays in grant approvals, according to speakers at the conference.
"We are going nowhere unless we can get a five to 10-year plan in place for the industry," warned Mr Kavanagh.
He added that the lack of Government comment and its noticeable absence at the bioenergy conference was a further sign of the lack of support for the industry.
This was the second year the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has snubbed the national conference, even though invitations were issued to Minister Pat Rabbitte and his junior minister.
However, the Department was acknowledged by the conference organisers for its help in setting up the event.
Speaking from the floor, farmer Nicholas Sweetnam said growing miscanthus was completely unprofitable for most farmers, willow grown on good land would only generate €147/ac net profit and the country was only meeting half of the national forestry targets.