Over 100,000t of old crop barley still in stores

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Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Forward prices for this year's barley crop are coming under pressure from the large amounts of old crop barley remaining in storage.

An estimated 100,000 tonnes of old crop barley remains in merchant and farmer stores across the country.

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The barley was held by growers last autumn as grain prices rose sharply post harvest. However, the market has collapsed since January due to a combination of reduced feed demand and an increased supply of cheaper imported maize.

Growers now fear that the stored barley stocks, which equate to around 5pc of last year's 1.7m-tonne cereal harvest, is putting downward pressure on forward prices for this year's crop.

Glanbia's forward price for barley, issued last week, was €145 per tonne for green barley. This is back €15 per tonne from the €160 per tonne quoted by Glanbia last November.

And John Bergin of feed importers RH Hall maintains that new-crop grain prices have the potential to fall further based on current market information.

IFA grain chairman Mark Browne said cereal growers were furious over the continued failure of many compounders to use local barley in feed rations.

"Many growers are left with stores full of barley due to the importation of feed ingredients," Mr Browne said.

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According to figures from Eurostat, Ireland imported 157,000 tonnes of non-EU maize in January alone, with Canada, Ukraine and Russia the main sources of the product.

Eurostat figures show that Ireland imported 973,000 tonnes of non EU-maize in the 2017-2018 marketing season (July to June), with this figure increasing for the current season to 840,000 tonnes by the end of January.

Mr Browne said if even a fraction of these imports was reduced in favour of native Irish barley, it would alleviate the immediate problem. "It is inexcusable that merchants would ship feed ingredients half way around the world and not buy Irish grain which is on their own doorstep. Farmers are incensed that these non-EU countries, which do not have equivalent standards to Irish grain, have displaced native barley in livestock rations," he said.

The IFA grain chairman questioned if shunning Irish barley in favour of importing maize over vast distances was compatible with the sustainability principles of Bord Bia's Origin Green programme.

However, merchants pointed out that dried barley prices went as high as €225 per tonne last December but growers were unwilling to sell.

Prices have now fallen back to €180-185 per tonne, but demand is on the floor. Imported maize is selling for €178-180 per tonne.

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