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Tillage farmers face losses of €250/ac on winter barley

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File photo

Losses on winter barley will top €250/ac in some parts of the southeast, cereal growers conceded this week.

As low as 1.8t/ac has been recorded in areas severely affected by the poor weather during sowing last autumn, and later by the drought.

Straw yields have also collapsed, with farmers baling five 4x4 bales to the acre in fields that would normally give 10-12 bales.

"There is a lot of worry out there," one Carlow-based grower admitted. "This is the second time in three years that we have been hit with drought. Winter barley growers will struggle to break even on owned land this harvest."

Average yields across much of the tillage heartlands of Carlow, south Kildare and west Wicklow are coming in around 2.7-2.8t/ac.

This is back 1.5-1.8t/ac on normal yields, and is leaving growers exposed financially as the break-even point for winter barley is generally around 2.9t/ac to 3t/ac.

Cereal growers on rented land are facing losses of up to €250/ac where crops failed to yield after being badly hit by poor establishment due to the wet autumn, or by drought - or a combination of both, in some cases.

"There are a lot of lads just wishing the harvest was over," another Carlow-based grower admitted.

Although crops in Cork are reported to have harvested very well, winter barley yields nationally are back by around 1t/ac. Drummonds agronomist Brian Reilly said the vast majority of crops in north Kildare and south Meath ranged from 2t/ac to slightly over 3t/ac, with exceptional fields yielding up to 4t/ac.

In south Wexford, growers are reporting yield averages of 3.25-3.75t/ac. Meanwhile, in the midlands, plenty of crops are being harvested at under 3t/ac.

Yields in south Tipperary were variable and ranged from 3.6t/ac back to 2.5t/ac. However, as has been the case nationally, quality is reported to be excellent, with crops coming in at 66-68kph and moistures of 16-18pc.

Stronger straw prices could help offset some of the yield losses. However, the volume of straw for sale is well back, with farmers reporting a 40-60pc drop in yield.

While farmers are asking up to €20/bale for 4x4 bales, it is reported that straw is being sold out of the field for €16-18/bale across much of the southeast. The best of the trade for straw is in mixed farming areas. Up to €35 for 6x4x3 bales has been paid for straw in north Tipperary.

With most of the winter barley crop likely to be wrapped up this week, the focus will shift to winter wheat and oilseed rape. Both crops are said to be looking good at this point.

Reacting to the current difficulties in the cereal sector, IFA grain chairman, Mark Browne, called on the Government and trade to support Irish growers.

Mr Browne said it was unacceptable that imported maize was continuing to put downward pressure on Irish barley prices, which are holding at around €145-146/t.

"Quality-assured Irish grain must not continue to be dictated by the price of third-country feedstuffs, which do not conform to the regulatory and environmental standards demanded by the EU Commission and the Irish Government," Mr Browne said.

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