Tight supplies drive up pit cover costs

Caitriona Murphy

Farmers who have not yet ordered their silage pit covers could be in for a shock as supplies of covers are tight across both Ireland and Britain.

The problem stems from the delayed manufacture of pit covers on the continent and the early start to this year's silage season.

High raw material prices earlier in the year prompted some continental manufacturers to delay production in the hope that polymer prices would fall.

However, prices held and manufacturers started production late and, as a consequence, have struggled to make up for lost time.

Suppliers point out that, as a customer, Ireland is well down the pecking order compared with France, Germany and Holland, who have far bigger orders placed.

It is understood that the decision by Irish Polythene Industries to stop importing pit covers has exacerbated the supply here.

The earlier start to the silage season only added to the pressure on supplies as most Irish importers do not keep pit covers in storage.

A spokesman for Spraychem, the Dublin-based company that supplies Drinagh, Lisavaird, Tipperary, Centenary Thurles, Arrabawn and Callan co-ops, said it had received about two-thirds of its total order. The company accounts for about 33pc of the total pit cover market in Ireland.

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"Within the next 10 days, we expect to have reached about 80pc of our order delivered," said the spokesman.

"But supplies will be tight for the next 10-12 days."

Barry Murphy, from Irish International Trading, said that while it would try to facilitate other customers where it could, the company's first loyalty would be to its own customers, including the Acorn group of merchants.

Irish International Trading supplies about 10,000 pit covers a year to Irish farmers.

Goldcrop crop packaging manager John Hayes said all of its customers, mainly Dairygold and Glanbia stores, had already received their stock of covers.

Meanwhile, prices for pit covers have risen substantially since last year as a result of high polymer prices during the manufacturing season. Price increases of 25-30pc, and as high as 50pc, have been quoted, based on raw material costs.

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