The Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) president, Patrick Kent, has said that the tillage sector in Ireland is in dire straits.

The association is calling for the tillage forum to be reconvened at the earliest possible date. It recently established a tillage committee.

Speaking on the issue, Kent said: “A second year of disastrous weather has exposed the frailty of the sector, but there are serious long-term issues that need to be looked at urgently.

“Irish farming needs balance between the livestock and tillage sectors.

“This is painfully evident at the moment, with livestock farmers in the west and border counties crying out for straw and feed.”

It is not good enough that farmers are openly contemplating having to import straw, silage and hay from outside the island of Ireland.

“It is not good enough that we have a huge protein deficit in animal feeds not only in Ireland, but in Europe.”

Sugar beet

Kent also said that the loss of Ireland’s sugar beet sector is still a huge problem, and there is a national failure to take this seriously.

“Meanwhile, the malting sector is being ripped off by the booming drinks industry. Some of the players in the drinks sector like to market their “Irish image”, yet the Irish content in the ingredients is minimal.

“Even where Irish product is used, the price paid does not compensate for the high standards required.”

The ICSA president said that Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed needs to put more focus on this critical sector.

“If it is not dealt with soon, there will be no tillage in the vast majority of the country and this will be a devastating loss, not only to the cereals sector, but to all livestock farmers as well.”

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