The persistent rain of late August and September is ruining harvest 2016. Given that Spring arrived so late and much of the harvest went in late, there is double trouble for the tillage sector in Ireland. A good harvest in Canada and Ukraine is keeping grain prices low, despite the poor year we are having. This is exacerbating the effect on tillage farmers as normally in a bad year you might expect a better price for limited supplies.
A farmer in Innishannon Co Cork told That's Farming. “We're not finished at all. It's a disaster really. There's high moisture and the grains are shooting out. If we got any few days we'd motor through it but the weather is terrible and there's been no progress. The crop is all down on the ground and it blocks the header when it's going through. I just got pissed off and decided go to the ploughing today to try to forget it. It's depressing talking about it. It's a bad year for farming. Milk, beef and now tillage. There's no fella boasting anyhow. It's a year to forget.”
We spoke to a dairy farmer in Wexford who usually grows barley for feed.
“It was too wet at sowing time, and it got too late so we laid down grass. Just as well too. The harvest around here is terrible. Lots of the grain heads are empty. We're trying to buy some feed barley now but there's no quality stuff available. The merchant is getting some imported stuff. It's still cheap though. Perils of a global market.”
As the quality of this year's harvest is so low, much of the grain will go into rations. Overall, it is not a positive outcome. Teagasc's Provisional Harvest Report came out too early to realise the extent of the disaster looming for tillage farmers, but it was obvious the news would not be good:
“Total national yields are predicted to fall by 15% this year, admittedly from a bumper harvest last year. This is compounded by low prices, all leading to negative margins for many crops. This year is predicted to be the largest harvest on record worldwide, boosting world grain supply and outstripping demand,leading to large world grain stocks.
“This will continue to put downward pressure on grain prices for the next year. Locally, demand for straw has been better than last year but choppers may be turned on in later crops.”
The Teagasc National Crops Forum is intended to address the tillage crisis. Michael Hennessy, of Teagasc was quoted in the Forum's publicity leaflet: “Tillage farmers are hard hit this year with the delayed harvest, poor yields and low prices.”
“All tillage farmers have hard decisions to make in terms of income generation and debt repayment over the coming months, with both elements squeezing cash flow. The focus of the Teagasc National Crops Forum is to give direction to farmers during this difficult period. The forum will address the areas of debt repayments and information in assessing critical investments where needed.” concluded Mr. Hennessy.
Main Photo: 'Rain Shower over newly-sown barley, Co. Carlow, March 2016', by Tom Jordan.