ICSA tillage chairman Gavin Carberry has called for the immediate reconvening of the Tillage Forum to address the looming crisis facing the sector.
“Vast quantities of spring cereals have been written off, with spring barley crops in the North East particularly badly hit. Winter crops have fared a bit better but with early ripening, the yield is right down," he said.
Mr Carberry said that, normally, we can expect each barley seed to shoot out five or six ears of barley. However, this year only one head sprung per seed due to the lack of rain.
The late cold spring followed by a harsh drought has been a real double whammy for the tillage sector.
In addition, ICSA understands there were 35,000 fewer acres of cereals sown across the country this year as opposed to last year. It stands to reason that grain yields will be way down, as will the straw we could have expected per acre.”
“The end result is that tillage farmers will have little or no produce to sell and there’s no getting around that. It’s devastating for those of us trying to earn a living from tillage farming and financial supports will need to be put in place.
"A drought for the tillage sector has the same impact a fodder shortage has on other sectors and we do not want to see a repeat of the delays we saw in implementing supports during the fodder crisis. The crisis is here and the sector needs help now," he said.
Mr Carberry also noted the impact grain and straw shortages will have on other sectors.
“Drastically reduced grain yields will result in higher feed prices for beef farmers. There is also no guarantee that we will be able to import straw from the UK this year to cover shortages as they too are in the same boat," he said.
Meanwhile, ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has called on Irish Water not to use the current dry weather as an excuse to force a pipeline across Irish farmland for its €1.3bn Shannon pipe project to bring 330 million litres of water to the Greater Dublin Area daily from the River Shannon at Parteen Basin.
“Water restrictions are in place because of leaks in the current infrastructure. There is no justification for anything other than fixing those leaks and certainly no valid case for jeopardising the livelihoods of the estimated 500 farmers along the proposed route," he said.
Mr Sherlock said that it made sense to fix the current problems with the pipe network and then reassess the situation. Only then will we have certainty around future water requirements and alternatives to building a cross country pipeline costing over €1bn can be considered.
"What makes no sense is to pipe water half way across the country for it to leak back into the groundwater through faulty pipes," he said.