Heatwave: Tipperary grain and cereal growers facing crisis due to lack of rain

Tipperary Star reporter

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Heatwave: Tipperary grain and cereal growers facing crisis due to lack of rain

North Tipperary IFA chairwoman Imelda Walsh

Tipperary grain and cereal growers are facing mounting losses and pressure because of the effects the hot weather is having on crops.

With the wet spring being followed almost immediately by a heatwave, many growers did not get to plant crops such as spring corn or barley until May.

“The weather conditions at this critical period will compound the income crisis many tillage and vegetable farmers are facing,” IFA North Tipperary chairwoman Imelda Walsh told the Tipperary Star.

She warned that crop losses looked “inevitable” with growers facing a situation where winter crops in the ground are stressed, and spring crops planted about eight weeks ago have not had any rain since.

“This will have an impact on yields. It is only the exceptional yields in recent years that have alleviated somewhat the dire income situation for tillage farmers,” she said.

“The continuing trend of low prices on the one side and increasing input prices on the other is placing cereal production in this country under threat. Planting is already down, and the current difficulties can only lead to more cereal growers questioning the viability of their enterprise,” said Ms Walsh.

The IFA chair warned that stakeholders will have to sit up and take note of the difficulties farmers were facing and realise that they must work with their growers to sustain them through this difficult period.

She pointed out that grass growth was a problem for dairy and livestock farmers at the moment.

“With growth stalled in many areas, farmers are having to use their limited fodder supplies to keep animals fed. The worry now is how quickly growth will resume and whether farmers will be able to save enough silage and hay for the winter ahead, particularly as reserves were well depleted during the extended poor weather conditions earlier this year,” said Ms Walsh.

Meanwhile IFA grain vice-chairman George Mason from South Tipperary said the current situation showed the importance of Single Farm Payments.

“Growers won't cover the cost of production,” he said.

As well as the cereals, Mr Mason said that the local potato crop will be hit and that will have a knock on effect in local, small shops.

There will also be a knock on effect for crops such as winter cabbage.

“Some are having to irrigate and that is adding to costs and that is where the extra costs for vegetables is coming from,” said Mr Mason.

“The small shops will suffer because the big supermarkets wil just bring in in from the UK,” he said.

With between 400 and 500 active growers in Tipperary, Mr Mason said individual growers will suffer as the crops will “just melt into the ground. But however bad Tipperary is, it's a lot worse in other parts of the country, with parts of Wexford like a desert.”

Mr Mason said that crops in Tipperary will “probably hold on” but their potential will be gone as they were stunted and suffering from heat stress. “The moisture is there, but it is eight or nine inches under the ground, and the spring crops wont' be able to reach it,” he said.