Promised market for miscanthus crop fails to emerge
One quarter of all miscanthus crops in the country have been ploughed in as the promised local markets for the crop have so far failed to materialise.
And Teagasc bioenergy specialist Dr Barry Caslin has warned that the Government needed to take 'fire-fighting action' to prevent even more miscanthus being taken out of production in the coming years.
More than 1,700ac of miscanthus have been ploughed in over the past three years and many more crops face the same fate unless immediate action was taken, Dr Caslin maintained.
"There has been no effort made by the Government to develop local heat markets or install boilers to demonstrate how this crop can be used to displace oil," he said.
"At the moment, the only real market for miscanthus is the Edenderry power plant, but unless your crop is within 50-60 miles of the power plant, it doesn't make economic sense," he explained.
Within a 50-mile radius of Edenderry, the crop is more profitable than either beef production or growing spring barley, but outside this area, the figures fail to stack up.
The cost of transporting 12t load of miscanthus worth €1,070 from Co Cork to Edenderry is around €700. When the harvesting costs are added in, the farmer either barely breaks even or makes a loss on the load.
Dr Caslin said the Government needed to focus on developing local heat markets and supply chains to prove the crop's merit before growers become disillusioned.