The breakeven rate for operating a combine harvester for 2022 will be €70 per acre plus VAT or €80 per acre including VAT, before straw chopping, according to the Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI).

Against the background of rising diesel and machinery operating costs, the association said it issued combine harvesting costing guidelines to members to help them meet the cost challenges posed by the 2022 harvest.

FCI says that in typical Irish conditions, the modern combine harvester will have an average output of not more than 50 acres per day.

For a combine operator aiming to harvest 1,000 acres, this equates to no more than 20 full harvesting days per season.

FCI explains that the fuel tank capacity of a modern combine is in the region of 1,000 litres, while fuel consumption is typically 10-12l/acre, depending on the crop and conditions. It says that the fuel consumption will be 50% higher when straw is being chopped by the combine.

100% increase in diesel cost

FCI says that this week its members are paying an average of €1.50/l including VAT for agri-diesel, more than a 100% increase in fuel costs since the 2021 harvest when diesel was costing €0.65/l including VAT.

The fuel cost component of cereal harvesting has increased from a minimum of €6.50/acre to €15/acre in 2022, solely as a result of fuel inflation.

“When we use a conventional costing approach to examine the running costs of a modern combine harvester with a 30% equity investment by the contractor after the trade-in and where the replacement cost is €200,000, the breakeven costs per acre will also come to €70 plus VAT,” says Michael Moroney, chief executive of the FCI.

“This converts to an annual combine harvester running cost of €70,000 per season plus VAT, over 1,000 acres, for a modern combine in a contractor’s fleet.

“With a lower 750 acre harvesting output, the costs per acre will increase.

The most significant combine harvester annual running costs are depreciation (28%), followed by agri-diesel (21%), finance repayments (21%) and labour (14%), in that order of magnitude, according to the latest FCI research”, he concluded.

The break-even rate for operating a combine for 2022 will be €70/acre plus VAT or €80/acre including VAT, before straw chopping, according to the Association of Farm & Forestry Contrators (FCI).