Why it's far from a simple process to make money from cereals in Ireland

With the average Irish person eating an estimated 54 kilogrammes of flour each year, a casual observer would be forgiven for thinking that growing cereals in Ireland would be a lucrative occupation. However the truth is that the cereal sector is doing far from well.

"There are people trying to make a living on cereals here for a long time and it's extremely difficult. If you do the job right, it can be a good time to be a cereal farmer but it's a far from simple process to make money from it," says agricultural consultant Pat Minnock.

"The reality is that last year was bad for yields but good for price while the previous year was good for yields and bad for price, and every year is different."

Farming of any kind is a challenging occupation in late 2018 Ireland but according to Minnock it's particularly frustrating that cereal tillage is so difficult to make work.

"Ireland is one of the best places in the world to grow cereals because we have natural climate and soils that are really well suited to it. Winter wheat, spring barley, winter barley - you name it, from a yield point of view they all do well," he says.

"The huge issue hanging over this though is that the economics of the current situation weigh heavily against them.

"The input costs and the end product price is what causes the problem. At the same time, we import an enormous amount, we don't have enough farmers producing and it doesn't generate an income.

Meanwhile, farmers can see that there is money in dairy and they're switching over. If there was money in tillage, says Minnock, they'd be doing more of that.

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"There is demand out there because the acreage has dropped, but it's a complex situation. Ultimately the situation needs improved prices and that doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon."

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