Miscanthus growers ploughing in energy crop
Millions of euro of State grants and farmers' investments are at risk of being lost as the country's fledgling miscanthus sector grinds to a halt.
Some 2,800ac of the biomass crop have been planted since grants of €546/ac were introduced six years ago. However, hundreds of farmers are now considering ploughing up the crop.
Further funding has been poured into miscanthus processing plants, such as the €400,000 briquetting plant at Cobh, Co Cork. However, the plant now lies idle after it was discovered that it is unsuited to processing the crop.
Suckler farmer Con Riordan, who is part of a Cork-based group of farmers called Leegen, said that the crop is now being ploughed in as farmers walk away from the sector and their investments. He estimates that his group has invested more than €1m of their own money in 450ac of miscanthus and the briquetting plant at Cobh.
"I'd gladly stick at it if I thought that there was a future in it because of how much of my own money is invested in it," he said. "But we're finished unless the Government installs some heating systems that use miscanthus in a couple of large facilities. This is the only way that we will safeguard the €3.5m that the State has already invested in the crop," he added.
Since one of the biggest promoters of the crop, Joe Hogan, announced that he was ceasing operations last month, the only remaining outlet for the crop is Edenderry power station.
However, growers outside the immediate catchment area of Edenderry claim that transport costs make the price being paid by the ESB completely unviable.
"We trucked 700t from 150ac to Edenderry this spring and were left with just €400 after we had paid for harvesting and transport," said Mr Riordan.