Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Renewed sector optimism is the star of show in Tullamore

Families bask in sunshine in Offaly as Smith says agri future is bright

Michael Hanlon, Longford, leads his reserve champion Aubrac
Michael Hanlon, Longford, leads his reserve champion Aubrac
More than 60,000 people packed ino the Butterfield Estate to make the most of the good weather
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Ice cream and sunscreen were the order of the day at Tullamore Show on Sunday, where more than 60,000 visitors packed into the sun-drenched 250ac Butterfield Estate site in Co Offaly.

The scorching sun only added to the positive and cheerful mood that prevailed on the day.

Officially opening the Tullamore and AIB National Livestock Show, Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith welcomed the improved outlook for farming this year. Referring to a recent Teagasc report outlining that the value of farm output will increase by €300m compared to last year, Mr Smith said that, after a difficult few years, things were looking brighter for Irish agriculture.

"Obviously, this is good news for farmers and their families but it is also positive for the whole rural economy," Mr Smith said.

"Overall, Teagasc says that dairy farmers' gross margins should increase by 70pc this year. This is very good news after the disastrous prices last year, which triggered EU market support following pressure from myself and some other agriculture ministers."

Mr Smith added that he was particularly pleased to see that the combination of lower costs and higher prices was benefiting Irish sheep farmers. Teagasc estimates that its margins should increase by 28pc this year.

"This is great news for a sector that has come through a difficult period but where there are now clear signs of renewed confidence. This increase in margin is in addition to the boost that the incomes of sheep farmers will receive from the €18m grassland sheep scheme, which I have provided this year," Mr Smith added.

However, IFA livestock chairman Michael Doran warned that to achieve the beef and livestock growth targets of 20pc -- €300m a year -- as set out in the 2020 Food Harvest report, Mr Smith needed to take urgent action to halt the decline in the national suckler cow herd.

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Mr Doran said due to the lack of profitability in the livestock sector, the suckler cow herd had fallen by 150,000hd from its peak in 2005, amounting to an output loss close to €150m each year.

He called on the minister to restore the payment rate of €80/cow under the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme and insisted that there were no cuts to any direct payments to farmers in the next budget.

Mr Doran added that the suckler cow herd was a national asset and that it formed the backbone of the €1.9bn beef and livestock sector.

"The suckler cow herd is the basis of quality Irish beef exports and our ability to penetrate higher-priced UK and European retail outlets. Top-quality beef from the extensive grass-based suckler herd is the key to maintaining and growing Irish beef exports, currently stocked by more than 70 major retailers across Europe," he said.

Irish Independent