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Saturday 18 August 2018

Minister shipping in fodder ‘too little, too late’, says IFA

No respite in sight as heavy rain continues

Minister for Agriculture, Food and The Marine, Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Minister for Agriculture, Food and The Marine, Michael Creed. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Government moves to alleviate the escalating fodder crisis have been blasted as “too little, too late” by under-pressure farmers.

The weather-related forage problems on the country’s farms have seen the major co-ops undertake the costly measure of importing fodder from the UK and Spain to ease pressures.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed’s confirmation of financial supports for the import of fodder from outside Ireland has been criticised by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) as “too little, too late”.

It comes as farmers see little sign of respite for their waterlogged fields with poor grass growth as Met Éireann forecast a ‘status yellow’ rainfall warning across the south of the country, delivering a further 30mm to 50mm of rain over 24 hours from this afternoon.

With some farmers warning they were already out of silage stocks and others on the brink, Dairygold was the first to confirm it had organised for the importation of 2,500 tonnes of haylage and hay from the UK, with the first loads arriving today as it was not possible to source it locally. It will be sold at the cost price of purchase.

“We have no doubt that this imported fodder is essential. Unfortunately, ground temperatures and grass growth remain well below normal for this time of year, so at this point in time it’s difficult to know when dairy farmers will be in a position to return to grazing,” said Dairygold chair John O’Gorman.

Kerry Group confirmed it was importing 2,000 bales of hay from the UK over the weekend, LacPatrick Dairies has secured 4,000 tonnes of maize silage, while Glanbia has arranged for the importation of 1,000 tonnes of alfalfa from Spain.

Glanbia will also make a support payment of €50 per tonne for all feed purchased by co-op members during April as the tough weather was having a “significant impact on farmers and their animals”.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the minister had been warned of the impending crisis as far back as September and demanded farmers receive financial help to afford them to buy the fodder after the costly winter.

Following an emergency meeting of the co-ops, Teagasc and the department, Mr Creed said a scheme would be developed to support the importation of fodder from outside of Ireland.

“We will unfortunately have to import fodder again, as occurred in 2013, to supplement existing supplies as the prolonged bad weather conditions continue,” said Mr Creed.

In addition, the initial fodder transport support scheme that has been criticised as being mired in red tape will be reviewed.

The IFA president, Joe Healy, said the scheme to subsidise the importation of fodder should have been in place long before now.

Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), warned the situation was worsening, with heavy rains forecast.

He said there should be no further delay in supporting the importation of fodder, which was done during the last fodder crisis in 2013. “Farmers are rightly questioning the support of Government in the current crisis and the minister must respond,” he said.

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