Farm feed costs surged €500m in fodder crisis

Financial impact of weather 'catastrophic', farmers' leader argues, writes Samantha McCaughren

Pat McCormack President of the ICMSA. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Pat McCormack President of the ICMSA. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Farmer feed and forage costs rose by €500m in 2018, as adverse weather pushed up fodder prices, Central Statistics Office (CSO) data shows.

The farming industry claims that this latest data highlights the impact of the feed crisis of last year, when bad weather increased reliance on fodder - dried hay or feed given to cattle and livestock.

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Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association (ICMSA) president Pat McCormack said that the final estimate in the CSO's Output, Input and Income in Agriculture data for 2018 shows the "exceptionally difficult year" experienced by farmers, with the impact of the severe weather conditions resulting in a 13pc increase in the cost of inputs.

He said: "In terms of financial impact on farmers, the figures are catastrophic and show the cost of feed increasing by €355m, forage costs by almost €200m and fertiliser by almost €70m, giving an accurate idea of the challenge that Irish farming faced in 2018."

In general terms, the costs borne by Irish farmers last year went up by more than half a billion euro, said McCormack. He said that the higher recurrence of extreme weather meant more support was needed. "The figures are hugely significant, but it's the underlying message that's more important," he added. McCormack claimed that the industry was subject to abuse by links in the supply chain when factors such as weather impact on farming.

"The result of this is a situation where farm incomes can fluctuate wildly from year to year. We desperately and obviously need measures that can address that destructive cycle and a proven solution, the Farm Management Deposits Scheme, needs to be introduced as a matter of urgency," said McCormack. He said that farmers seem to have to deal with "wild price and income volatility" on both the input and output costs.

"It must be obvious to everyone looking at Irish farmers having to pay more than half a billion euro in extra costs in just one year that this can't go on, and must lead to radical and long-overdue measures to tackle this completely unsustainable income and input volatility," said McCormack.

He confirmed that the ICMSA again called for the introduction of the Farm Management Deposits Scheme at last week's National Economic Dialogue in Dublin Castle.

According to a Teagasc National Farm Survey, dairy farms incurred the largest income reductions in 2018 due to the fodder crisis, with average income falling by 31pc to €61,273, compared with the 2017 level of €88,829. Concentrate feed use increased by almost one third to more than 1,300kg per cow. Average family farm income on cattle-rearing farms dipped to an estimated €8,318, a reduction of 22pc.

Sunday Indo Business