Grain Crisis - Action Needed Now
After visiting grain farmers over the weekend to see at first hand the problems those farmers are struggling with and the seriousness of the current harvest situation, MEP Luke Ming Flanagan raised the issue yesterday at the Agricultural committee in the European Parliament.
He outlined the stark reality facing many grain farmers in the west and north-west of Ireland:
· Incessant rainfall has left fields waterlogged with machinery unable to operate;
· Many of the crops have lodged and are starting to sprout;
· At this stage, even if ground condition improve to allow harvesting, yields will be drastically reduced;
· Bills are coming due from spring inputs with no income coming in to cover these;
· Where grain has been harvested, prices are on the floor due to bumper yields in other parts of the world;
· Grain farmers are facing a total wipe-out of their income which will undermine the sustainability of their farm businesses, all this without taking into account the need of farmers to have a basic income to sustain some quality of life.
He identified a twin strategy that has to be pursued to return the sector to some degree of profitability in the medium term, as follows:
1) Initially and urgently, a crisis fund must be put in place to alleviate the cash flow difficulties that are there, in a similar way that support was provided to the dairy sector. This could take the form of an EU package co-funded by national governments. In addition, farm payments that are due must be released without delay to ease cash flow on farms.
2) In the longer term, the future direction and sustainability of sector has to be assessed. At current prices, even those farmers that have harvested their crops, getting average yields, are returning wafer-thin margins. Given our large livestock sector and our reliance on imported feed, there should be a margin available to growers supplying the home market to exploit direct selling to users.
Luke also called on Teagasc, as a matter of urgency, to complete a survey to assess the scale of the problem. He would bring this to the Agri committee to highlight the real need that exists and use it to build a case for action to be taken.
In conclusion, he called on the committee to address this issue in a timely manner, as empty words and rhetoric are cold comfort farmers facing mounting bills and waterlogged fields.