7 OCTOBER 2016
ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch has told the tillage forum established by the Minister that the Irish drinks industry must wear the green jersey in terms of strongly favouring Irish cereals and paying a price that reflects the high value of branded Irish alcoholic beverages.
ICSA believes that a malting barley price of €154/ton is an absolute disgrace given that Irish alcohol beverages such as whiskey are now being marketed successfully at premium prices on a global scale based on capitalising on the Irish quality image. If the drinks sector doesn’t support a viable cereals sector in Ireland, then in the longer term they will be selling a complete deception to international consumers as more and more of the raw materials are imported.
ICSA also outlined to the tillage forum the need for help for the beleaguered tillage sector. “Just like the cattle and sheep sectors, tillage farmers are right to be furious that only dairy farmers seem to merit emergency Brussels funds. The situation is now critical in terms of crop loss due to bad weather. Even in eastern counties, this week will see crops harvested at a drop in yield of 30% and quality will be back. Obviously the situation is even worse in the west.”
“Without support many of these farmers will be forced out of tillage. ICSA wants to see a national agriculture strategy that is focused on balance between the sectors, and balance between supply and demand. The strategy has been dairy expansion at the expense of all else without regard for how this will help dairy farmers or the impact on other sectors. For example, suckler, sheep and dairy farmers in the west all have a huge need for competitive straw but the reduction in cereals by 12.5% over the past two decades along with higher diesel costs is causing real problems. The loss of the sugar beet industry is also hugely problematic in terms of rotation and in terms of the loss of quality by-products for feeding cattle.”
ICSA also insisted that there was no fairness in keeping tillage farmers out of TAMS and that support for GPS precision systems and storage and drying facilities was vital. These supports could help in cost reduction and also create options in terms of farm to farm trade for grains. “ICSA does not believe that cheap rations which include poorer quality imported ingredients at the expense of Irish cereal growers does any good for the Irish livestock sector. In fact, cheap cereals always leads to lower livestock and dairy prices on international markets. ICSA also warned that supervision of imports compared poorly with the amount of regulation of Irish farmers, and warned of the risks posed by traces of black grass and sterile brome in imports.
ICSA also made a strong plea to the Minister that any increased taxes on either white or green diesel would be a spectacular own goal. “Talk of increasing white diesel price is madness in terms of making straw even more expensive to transport to the west and it also makes the export of pig slurry and chicken manure less competitive even though this is vital for the environment. It is also instructive to note that the carbon tax on green diesel is adding €5,000 to the fuel costs of a cereal farmer with around 400 acres.”
ICSA also argued that the issue of credit needed urgent attention. “It’s not sustainable to have the whole sector hugely dependent on expensive credit from merchants who cannot afford to be in the business of banking. We need better solutions to deliver low cost interest and a determination to find solutions to debt problems.”