Irish dairy co-operatives are afraid of increased competition for grass should an anaerobic digestion (AD) sector develop, according to ICMSA president Pat McCormack at this week’s farm leaders’ debate.

While farmers would have no problem supplying slurry, “the less grass that can be put through those systems the better”, said McCormack. He said that this is why co-operatives are taking their time in exploring and analysing the viability of AD plants.

The market for renewable gas produced from farm-based AD plants will likely be in the heat and transport sectors. However, the average farm-scale AD plant in Ireland will be considerably larger than that in Northern Ireland, costing approximately €4m to €5m to build and requiring up to 1200ac of grass or forage and 10,000t to 15,000t of slurry to feed.

IFA president Tim Cullinan felt that a community-based, co-operative structure should be developed to ensure the 80 plants required by 2030 are kept in the ownership of farmers.