Referring to the launch of Tillage Industry Ireland, IFA Grain Chairman Mark Browne said, “The sector is in serious decline and a co-ordinated approach is required by all stakeholders in order to stabilise the sector,” he said.
According to CSO figures, the area planted to the main cereal crops since 2008 has reduced by 67,500ha, which represents a drop of over 20%. “This stark reality confirms that tillage must be considered as a vulnerable sector in Irish agriculture. The arable sector is of major strategic importance to the broader agricultural industry as it underpins Ireland’s livestock, dairy, drinks and mushroom sectors, and the €12.6 billion in exports,” he said.
Mark Browne said the sector faces many challenges, with the most immediate being the importation of grains from non-EU countries which are undermining Irish grain producers and Ireland’s food branding image. These third country imports are produced under standards which are not equivalent with the sustainability standards of Irish grain production.
In relation to CAP, the Grain Committee Chairman emphasised that tillage farmers had been disproportionately affected by the current regime due to downward convergence and greening issues. Any continuation of these policies in CAP 2020 would only contribute to the further decline of the arable area in the country.
Mark Browne concluded by stressing that the tillage sector had many positives aspects for the economy and particularly in relation to Ireland’s food provenance credentials. It can also play a vital role regarding Ireland achieving its climate change, biodiversity and water quality targets.