There has been a massive surge in straw imports from Britain over the last month as supplies in Ireland have completely dried up.
Fodder traders in the west are now sourcing straw from Scotland and England as domestic prices have spiked and availability plummeted.
Importers who traditionally supplied straw into Northern Ireland are now selling far bigger volumes south of the border to meet the burgeoning demand.
The sharp rise in straw imports comes amid a collapse in southern output.
While close to 7m bales (4x4) of straw were produced in 2022, this figure could be as low as 3m bales this harvest.
This is due to a combination of low yields of wheat and barley, the wet harvest conditions and a significant decline in the winter cereal area.
The shortage of straw has resulted in prices increasing to around €35/bale (4x4) in the east and southeast, with €40 to €45/bale being paid in the west and northwest – and as high as €50/bale in some instances.
One fodder trader in the northwest said he was currently looking at importing straw and hay out of Scotland and the east of England.
“There is nothing here for us. The Irish stuff [straw] is high in price and we can’t get enough of it,” he explained.
The trader said he was in the process of importing 8x4x3 bales. He said the price to the buyer was likely to equate to €40 to €45 for a 4x4 bale.
Armagh-Louth fodder importer John Fearon said sales to southern farmers were up at least 50% this winter.
“I’m getting seven or eight calls from Cork most days,” he said.
“There’s absolutely no straw for sale in the south,” he added.
Fearon said he had even sent a load to Tullow in Carlow this week, in the heart of grain growing country.
Most of the straw – which is being landed primarily in Warrenpoint – is being sold for €220/t to €230/t, with €240 to €250/t being quoted for deliveries to Cork and Kerry.
Fearon is also importing small quantities of English hay. He sold a load in Limerick recently for €200/t.
Teagasc’s Michael Hennessy recently told the Irish Farmers Journal he was extremely worried about blackgrass being imported in this straw and that it poses a risk in transport, on-farm and spreading to other farms.