Grain yields set to bounce back to over 2.2m tonnes

IFA grain chairman Mark Browne said the forecast increase in grain yields masked a continued lack of confidence in the tillage sector
IFA grain chairman Mark Browne said the forecast increase in grain yields masked a continued lack of confidence in the tillage sector
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Grain yields are forecast to bounce back to over 2.2m tonnes this harvest and demand for straw remains strong.

However, the IFA slammed the increased use of imported maize and grain by feed merchants which it claimed was "costing cereal growers millions of euros" and undermining the country's Origin Green marketing campaign.

With combines ready to roll in the south from the end of next week, green barley and wheat prices are on €146-€150/t and €159-€163/t respectively. Dried barley and wheat prices are on €176- €180/t and €190-€194/t.

However, Bobby Miller of the Irish Grain Growers' Group said there was "a lot to play for before harvest prices are finalised", pointing out that world markets were "on a knife-edge" because of poor weather conditions in the US.

While straw traders do not expect a repeat of last year's rush for supplies, grain growers report a steady flow of orders from livestock farmers and the mushroom sector.

The expectation is that 4x4 bales will make in the region of €18-20/bale ex-field, with yields forecast to be back to normal levels following last year's drought.

"Straw yields from spring crops last year were abysmal, but crops are looking really good this year," one Kildare grower said.

IFA grain chairman Mark Browne said the forecast increase in grain yields masked a continued lack of confidence in the tillage sector.

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While an extra 350,000 tonnes of grain is expected from the upcoming harvest compared to last year, Mr Browne pointed out that yields will still be 200,000 tonnes lower than the 2017 harvest and that the area planted for the 2019 harvest was the second lowest on record.

"The 2019 Teagasc farm survey has indicated an average rise in tillage farm incomes, but this comes after successive years of poor farm returns and belies the fact that growers, particularly of spring crops, had another poor year [in 2018] due to drought conditions," Mr Browne said.

Maize imports

"Since 2012 the tillage acreage has dropped by almost 20pc. This is of major concern considering that imports of grains for livestock feedstuffs have increased significantly, with maize in particular having trebled in tonnage during this same period.

"Substituting imports for native grains results in the loss of millions of euros to the rural economy and undermines Ireland's credentials in relation to Origin Green and our carbon footprint," Mr Browne said.

"According to CSO figures, Ireland imported almost 500,000 tonnes of maize from Brazil alone in the past two years.

"This grain is produced under standards which allow widespread deforestation etc, and are completely at odds with the sustainability standards demanded by the EU," the IFA representative said.

But global markets on a 'knife-edge' due to poor spring weather in the US

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