Exciting, albeit mixed, times for food and agriculture, Teagasc report finds

It is an exciting time in agriculture, despite the challenges currently facing certain enterprises, according to Teagasc.

The authority’s annual report published yesterday pointed out that it was providing integrated research, education and advisory services to underpin the future development of the Irish agriculture and food industry. Chairman, Dr Noel Cawley, said farmers had had a mixed year in 2013, depending on their individual enterprises.

Dairying continued to offer the best returns for producers and was on the verge of entering a new era with the removal of milk quotas in 2015.

The other enterprises presented more challenges for producers to earn adequate returns on their land, labour and capital employed. The average income on Irish farms increased slightly in 2013 to €25,639.

Teagasc director, Professor Gerry Boyle, said a number of important initiatives had been undertaken by Teagasc in 2013 to improve the competitiveness of the sector in the longer term.

These included the establishment of the Next Generation Dairy Herd at Teagasc in Moorepark, Cork, and a Beef Maternal Index Herd in Grange, Cork. These initiatives were significant in advancing animal breeding in the national dairy and beef herds. Knowledge Transfer activities by Teagasc advisers centred on farm discussion groups, which yielded higher levels of technology uptake on participating farms, resulting in higher overall profitability.

Demand for education courses in 2013 continued at the elevated levels of recent years. It increased again in 2014 when applicants for the Teagasc Distance Education Green Cert and the Regional Part Time Green Cert increased threefold to 1,500 applicants.

Key themes that Teagasc worked on in 2013 included CAP reform, the fodder crisis, greenhouse gases and climate change, the Chalara disease of ash trees and developing co-operation between Britain and Ireland in the food sector.

Teagasc, which has more than 40,0000 farmer clients, completed 89 research projects, published 76 technology updates and refereed 381 scientific papers in 2013.

A memorandum of understanding was also signed with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, the report notes.

Total income for Teagasc for 2013 was €163.16m, excluding net deferred funding for pensions. The net surplus for the year was €330,000 on the current account.

The biggest challenge facing the organisation, it said, was the continuous reduction in staff numbers.


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