Animal feed firms deny profiteering

Up to 100,000 tonnes of Irish barley was left in store last winter
Up to 100,000 tonnes of Irish barley was left in store last winter

Declan O'Brien and Claire Fox

Animal feed manufacturers have strongly rejected claims by the IFA that the industry is profiteering on the backs of tillage farmers, by keeping ration costs high despite the expected drop in grain prices this harvest.

John Coughlan of the IFA inputs project team accused the compound feed mills of not reducing ration prices to farmers despite the expected €50/t drop in the cost of barley and wheat compared to last year.

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The IFA representative called on the feed industry to reduce ration prices immediately in recognition of what he described as the "perilous state of the beef finishing sector".

However, Deirdre Webb of the Irish Grain and Feed Association (IGFA) dismissed the assertion that prices were being maintained at artificially high levels.

"It's not the policy of the association to comment on prices. Everybody knows that there is always a drag and lag on prices because people are forward buying and smoothing out price swings," Ms Webb said.

The IGFA also took issue with claims by the IFA that not enough Irish grain was being included in animal feeds.

Mr Coughlan maintained that there had been a major swing in the feed industry away from using native cereals. Imported maize and various by-products were taking the place of Irish grain, he said.

"Such a move is potentially undermining the provenance of Irish food production at a time when there is an increased focus on the carbon footprint," Mr Coughlan said.

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"It has been shown time after time that livestock rations that include a high level of quality native Irish cereals consistently outperform many compound feed rations based on least cost formulations, which invariably use high levels of imported by-products," he added.

"Irish cereal production not only has an extremely low carbon footprint, but also enhances biodiversity when compared to imported feed ingredients."

Up to 100,000 tonnes of Irish barley was left in store last winter, despite the feed industry importing 4.5 million tonnes of feed ingredients in 2018. The industry has recently been accused of importing cheap English barley to keep down local harvest prices.

However, Ms Webb insisted that the feed industry always "maximise local product" in rations. "To suggest we do otherwise is nonsense," she maintained.

"On all other issues, farm organisations shouting and pointing the finger is no replacement for intelligent dialogue with the chain," the IGFA official added.

Meanwhile, compound feed manufacturers predicted that ration prices will come back by €10-12/t once the harvest price has been set in September.

"We can't set prices for rations until we know what we're going to pay for grain," one industry source told the Farming Independent.

However, he accepted that prices will ease back from next month on.

Harvest update

Meanwhile, serious difficulties with sprouting are being reported in winter wheat crops in parts of north Leinster, with some growers reporting losses of up to a tonne per acre. Generally crops are yielding 3.8-4.0t per acre.

IFA calls for prices to be cut to help 'perilous' beef finishing sector

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