Overall production of the three main cereals - wheat, oats and barley - decreased from 2,396,000t in 2019 to 2,013,000t in 2020 representing a decline of 16%, according to CSO figures on Area, Yield and Production of Crops, which were released today.
The decrease is due to a combined drop in the production of all three main winter cereals (-47.7%), despite a combined rise in the production of all three main spring cereals (+40.3%).
Meanwhile, the statistics reveal that potato production decreased from 382,000t in 2019 to 300,000t in 2020, down 21.5%.
The yield of potatoes decreased from 44.1t/ha to 33.8t/ha - a drop of 23.4%.
Further comparisons with the 2019 results show that wheat production decreased by 38.2% to 243,000t while the area sown decreased by 16,500ha - 26% and the yield decreased by 16.5%.
Barley production decreased by 127,000t - a decrease of 8.2% while the area sown increased by 7.7% and the yield decreased by 14.7%.
Oats production decreased by 13,000t - down 6.3%; the area sown increased by 1,600ha, a jump of 6.8% while the yield decreased by 12.2%.
Production of beans and peas increased from 44,000t in 2019 to 66,000t in 2020 while yield decreased from 5.4t/ha to 4.8t/ha, although the area sown increased by 5,600ha - an increase of 69%.
Commenting on the figures, IFA says tillage farmers’ incomes could be down as much as 15% because of the sharp drop in 2020 yields.
“There’s an emphasis at government level on increasing the tillage area in this country, and promoting the use of native grain and protein crops in livestock rations,” said the organisation’s Grain Committee chairman Mark Browne.
“However, in order to achieve these goals, government actions and policy must support the sector.
“Some of the current proposals for the next CAP in relation to convergence and the administration of eco schemes will impact negatively on the tillage sector.
“In addition, the coupled protein payment needs to be increased, to encourage increased plantings of these crops.”
Mr Browne highlighted how the adverse impact of a difficult winter in 2019, followed by drought conditions in late spring of 2020 affected last year’s crop.
And, according to the Teagasc National Farm Survey, tillage farm incomes also fell by 15% in 2019 compared to 2018.
“The price of Quality Assured Irish grain must not be undermined by the price of third-country feedstuffs, which are not produced to the same environmental standards as Irish grain,” continued Mr Browne.
“Feed manufacturers and the malting sector should maximise their intake of Irish grain.
“The area of Irish grain production is down 17% from 2012 and without targeted measures and a strategic plan, this decline will continue.
"The sector contributes over €650m of farm gate value to the rural economy.
“It is of critical strategic importance to Ireland's €13bn livestock, dairy, food, drinks and mushroom export sectors.”