Paying high tillage rents is a huge risk
The latest drop in grain futures prices is another hammer blow to growers.
The sector has endured two horrendous harvests and unless the markets bounce back significantly during the spring and summer, then another difficult year is in the offing.
As things stand, harvest prices will settle around the €85/t mark for barley off the combine, while green grain will be in or around €95-€105/t.
This will leave farmers nursing losses of up to €50 on every tonne of grain produced on rented ground. Such a scenario is not sustainable in the current climate.
In light of this, it is difficult to understand the money that is again being paid this spring for tillage conacre. While prices have come back in many instances, there have been reports of between €140 and €160/ac being paid. This is way out of line with the commercial reality of the grain business.
Land owners cannot be blamed for seeking to nail the best possible price. However, farmers taking this land won't be working for nothing; they will actually be working to build up debt.
It has been suggested that uncertainty regarding the Single Farm Payment (SFP) is a factor in driving conacre prices.
The belief in some quarters is that last year and this year could be used as reference years for the SFP post-2013. However, there is no basis for this view.