Farm Ireland

Friday 24 November 2017

Tillage sector faces €9m loss on poor harvest

Winter barley
Winter barley
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

A massive fall in tillage area for 2017 is being predicted because of this year's disappointing harvest.

The IFA warned that sowings this autumn could be down by 15,000ha, meaning that the ­total area under tillage will have fallen by 20pc in five years.

The IFA national grain committee chairman, Liam Dunne, said grain sowings this autumn were likely to drop under 260,000ha.

Cereal sowing have been in constant decline since 2012 when they stood at 320,000ha. Plantings were back for the ­current harvest by almost 16,000ha or close to 40,000ac.

Mr Dunne said the joint hammer blows of poor yield and low prices had combined to totally erode farmer confidence.

"Some 40pc of cereals are grown on rented land. I can see farmers walking away from expensive land and leasing out entitlements if they have to," Mr Dunne said.

"At least they'll get 70pc to 75pc of the value of their entitlements up front, which is around €250/ac if their entitlements are worth €320/ac," he pointed out.

The IFA official also predicted that many of the 11,000 growers who had mixed tillage and livestock farms will row back on the area planted.

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Professor Jimmy Burke of UCD agreed that plantings would be back for 2017 but he said there was nowhere to go for committed cereal growers.

"I have spoken to a lot of growers who are looking at their operations and assessing their alternatives, and there isn't a lot of alternatives out there," Prof Burke said.

"They are hoping that there will be a turnaround in their fortunes; because you can't keep losing money forever," he added. Meanwhile, close to 60pc of the national winter ­barley harvest has been cut to date.

The southeast has over 80pc cut, 60pc is harvested in the south, 50pc in the northeast, 40pc in the midlands and 30pc in the north midlands.

Winter barley yields are extremely variable ranging from 2t/ac to slightly over 4t/ac. The national average yield based on harvest returns to date suggests a figure of 3.2t/ac versus 3.9t/ac last harvest.

The drop in yield coupled with increased moisture content before factoring in price represents a loss of close on €9m to growers.

Bobby Miller of the Irish Grain Growers Association said the first of the winter oats had been cut in the midlands but it was too early to estimate yields. Oilseed rape crops were also coming close to being ready for harvest.

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