The speed at which the price of fertiliser has increased over recent weeks is staggering and will have dire consequences for farm incomes, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) tillage chair Gavin Carberry has said.

“In the space of six weeks, we have witnessed price hikes of almost 50%.

“Nitrogen, which was trading at €180/t, has now skyrocketed to €300, and urea is a whopping €400. That sort of a burden is just too great to bear.

“Fertiliser companies are blaming various global issues for these price increases, but what good is that to farmers who cannot increase their own prices to absorb any extra costs?”

The ICSA said primary producers have been forced into a position of being price takers and most have zero opportunity to work any increase in the costs of inputs into the final price they receive.

Organic option

Carberry said it is unrealistic for farmers to be expected to take a hit for reasons beyond their control.

“Tillage farmers will need to be compensated. Ireland has been singled out for €1.05bn in Brexit support and Minister McConalogue will have to fight for some of those funds to be directed towards the tillage sector."

The ICSA has suggested that the choice to move to organic farming might be more appealing for many tillage farmers on the back of the price rise for fertiliser.

“The Organics Scheme will open for applications in March and although places in the scheme are limited, I would urge farmers to give it some consideration,” Carberry continued.

“Equally, farmers could consider sowing beans to minimise their use of fertiliser. These options will only be useful for some tillage farmers however, and a significant number are going to need help.”