HEAVY weekend rain has added to the difficulties of grain farmers trying to save their crops in what is proving to be one of the most difficult harvests in years.
Saturated land has prevented heavy machinery accessing the crops in many parts of the country where the harvest work is well behind schedule. The downpours have heightened the fears of some grain farmers that they will be facing a salvage operation unless the weather improves.
Many farmers would normally expect to have 90% of the work done by September 1, but only half the crop in the south of the country has been harvested so far, with one-third in the north-east.
There has been progress on spring barley, but wheat harvesting has stalled because of the wet weather. Yields are disappointing compared with last year and straw is back 25%.
Irish Farmers Association Grain Committee chairman Colum McDonnell said grain growers are questioning the viability of sowing a crop for next year in light of poor prices and frustrating weather conditions this year.
With further rain forecast for the rest of the week, prices are at a 30-year low, and growers are set to lose up to €200 per acre.
“Based on these figures, many growers will be taking a hard look at their options for the coming year. Losses on this scale are simply unsustainable.”
Mr McDonnell said one positive feature of this year’s harvest is a significant increase in farm-to-farm trading. Livestock farmers under pressure for fodder are availing of the quality feed available locally.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith has already announced a temporary measure to assist Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) farmers affected by current weather conditions.
The measure applies to farmers in REPS 3 who are required to have spread all the slurry produced during the winter housing period by yesterday.
“I recognise that the current weather conditions make it difficult for some REPS farmers to get their slurry spread by the end of this month. Indeed the nitrates regulations would rule out spreading in many areas at the moment.
“For that reason, I have agreed to extend the deadline to October 15 which is the deadline in the nitrates regulations themselves and also applies to farmers in REPS 4,” he said.
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