Tillage growers look for some alternatives

TILLAGE growers, who have lost a €70 million a year beet crop with the impending closure of Mallow Sugar Factory, are looking for a profitable replacement or alternative enterprises, the Teagasc national tillage conference was told in Carlow yesterday.

But a Teagasc tillage specialist, Michael Hennessy, warned that if all of the planned sugar beet acreage is sown in spring cereal then this extra production will flood the market. To prevent this happening Teagasc has outlined a number of alternative options for growers.

“Much of the land coming out of sugar beet should be planted to crops other than spring barley, such as maize, fodder beet, oilseed rape, peas/beans and oats”, he said.

He said that a straw poll of tillage farmers in Carlow, Waterford, Kilkenny, South Tipperary and Cork, indicated that 25% of them are continuing to grow beet for feed, 44% are growing spring barley, 9% other cereals, 7% beans and peas, 6% grain, 5% maize and 4% oil seed rape.

Mr Hennessy said tillage growers must feel like they are in a pressure cooker at the moment. Increasing costs of production, increased costs of living, more regulations, the imminent loss of a very profitable crop and static commodity prices are all squeezing income on farms and driving many growers towards part-time farming.

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