Poor prices for grain and the outbreak of disease have increased financial pressure on Ireland’s Tillage farmers who are now struggling to break even. Grain farmers face a fourth consecutive year of losses. This is partly due to weather conditions affecting growth and damaging crops.
Teagasc Tillage advisor, Ivan Whitten, said "The stark reality is that unless there is a major weather event somewhere in the world we won't see any profit on tillage farms this year,". He also added that "If they (tillage farmers) didn't have their basic payments they'd be at nothing. They'd be better driving a lorry or getting an off-farm job."
As the agriculture industry in Ireland as a whole begins to witness the effects of the dry weather spell on grass growth, the tillage sector is also focusing on diseases affecting their harvests.
The main disease affecting crops and noticed by farmers was the barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) in their winter crops. These are fastly becoming worrying stressful times for Tillage farmers, during the season which used to be profitable to most. Teagasc Tillage advisor Whitten advised that “The easterly wind and dry spells are also impacting on spring cereals, with some plants germinating poorly.
This comes after the news where Tillage experts have warned growers that wheat will not be a viable crop by 2022 as it will be uneconomical for farmers to grow.
The IFA have also warned that said farmers were hit by grain and straw losses of close to €4m following last year's difficult harvest season.
Prices for barley averaged €128 per tonne last year, with wheat at around €138 per tonne.
Teagasc Tillage advisor Ivan Whitten said that grain farmers this year need to exceed prices of €160 per tonne in order to make a profit, yet prices remain a great distance off said targets.
Mr Whitten also stated that Brexit may also hamper the outlet for wheaten straw through mushroom outlets.
Mr Whitten also warned over other more serious dangers facing grain farmers “in the last harvest i had three or four farmers suffering with very bad depression” which he said were due to burnout and labour issues amongst farmers.
The Tillage advisor also stated that many farmers find difficulty in opening up about financial strains placed on them. He also said that farmers renting substantial amounts of land face more problems as they are reliant on merchant credit to pay their bills.
Finally Mr Whitten urged anyone, feeling the pressure of running their farm, to open up and talk to their loved ones.