Who is checking the standard of grain imports?
Farmers will lose on the double from low-quality grain imports
It's the middle of our harvest and apart from the usual discussions about yield and quality, I also find myself discussing another issue, that may be badly affecting grain farmers - imports of lower quality grain.
I have heard several reports about lower grade imports coming into the grain market.
As a sector we don't produce enough grain for the feed industry so we need to import. I don't have a problem with that. I do, however, have a problem if merchants are importing lower grade grain which pushes down the price of higher quality home grown grain.
Farmers have led the field in our agri food industry. Our Department of Agriculture and other statutory bodies are leading the way in traceability and transparency.
They detected the horse meat in beef products long before many other countries.
The 'farm to fork' policy is not only a positive one for the consumer; it also gives farmers the support of a heavily scrutinised system.
This scrutiny is important to create a benchmark for quality. This has also led to a healthy food industry that can follow ingredients right back to the source.
The majority of farmers in Ireland are in assurance schemes. Grain farmers do not receive any financial bonus for joining the scheme, but a majority are members as most buyers look for this standard when buying.
So I have a few questions. Is the Department checking the standard of all grain imports? Is the IFA checking the imports? If not, why not? If we in Ireland, have to grow a crop to rigorous standards, surely imports should be held to these standards?
If not, I believe the real losers in this scenario could be the farmers that are buying grain for feed. Are they testing the quality of grain in the rations and feed mixes? I doubt it. If they buy a premium feed they expect a premium grain to be used.
Winter barley and wheat
Meanwhile, back in the fields the winter barley is finished and averaged slightly over 4 mt per acre, which we were happy with.
It was cut at low moistures of 13-16pc and this is a great help when it comes to drying and storing it. The oilseed rape was also cut at low moistures of 6-11pc and averaged at just over the 2 mt per acre.
We struggled to get the oilseed rape up from the tram lines and into the header, as they were bent over so far.
I wonder would our yield be slightly better if we included all the losses from that. It looked well and very clean compared to other years.
I think cutting it at such low moistures meant that the combine could trash it better than it normally does.
The winter wheat crop looks very mixed with some much larger seed than others. Hopefully we can get these in with low moistures too. However the recent heavy rain is making that a real challenge.
The JB Diego in continuous fields was cut first at 16-18pc moisture and did just over the 4 mt per acre.
We have heard reports in our area that JB Diego hasn't done as well as other years. Some of the newer varieties like Garrus and Costello have done far better. We haven't cut our Costello yet so it will be interesting to see what the difference is.
The stop start nature of this years harvest is making it more difficult for anyone waiting for a contractor. The price of straw seemed to have calmed down and then took another jump. I have heard anything from €12-€18 for a 4x4 round bale leaving the field.
Philip and Helen Harris are tillage farmers in Co Kildare. Follow them on Twitter: P&H Harris @kildarefarmer
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