Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue launched a plan on 9 December to double the area planted to protein crops in the country. The strategic plan was produced by the Irish protein stakeholders group.

The aim of the plan is to produce 130,000t of native protein from 20,000ha by 2030.

In 2021, approximately 9,863ha of protein crops, including beans, peas and lupins, were planted, according to preliminary figures from the Department of Agriculture.

The stakeholders group was convened by Teagasc and has farmer representatives, as well as representatives from Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and industry.

Minister McConalogue noted that having all the links in the chain - the farmer, seed industry, advisory and the Department of Agriculture - will help to achieve the group's targets.


Speaking on its launch, the Minister stated: "I am delighted to be able to launch the protein strategy and I am pleased that the targets of the strategy are very much aligned with my Department’s proposed CAP strategic plan to double the area grown to protein crops to 20,000 hectares.

"I firmly believe in the long-term viability of the tillage sector and I am convinced there is massive untapped potential within the tillage sector.

"I am committed to supporting the growing of indigenous protein crops through the next CAP with a proposed increase in funding for the Coupled Voluntary Protein Aid Scheme from the current €3m per annum to €7m per annum.

"Growing the area under protein crops is a win-win for our industry; it offers a support for tillage farmers and can play a huge role in reducing our dependence on imported crops."

The plan has three key strategies to achieve its goal:

  • Farmer profitability - Improving farm profitability from protein crops versus other crops through variety improvement, better agronomic practices and bridging knowledge gaps.
  • Creating demand - Create a positive market environment for indigenous protein crops by establishing their nutritional credentials and demonstrating to livestock producers the advantages of substituting imported proteins.
  • Sustainability - Create a greater recognition of the sustainability credentials of native grown protein crops to achieve climate change and biodiversity targets by the displacement of imported protein sources.
  • An initiative is planned by the stakeholders group to begin next spring called ‘Benchmarking beans for yield improvement’.

    This initiative plans to determine "the key agronomic practices used to achieve the highest-yielding crops and to use these crops as a benchmark for other farmers, for overall yield improvement".

    Teagasc head of crops knowledge transfer Michael Hennessy stated: "The animal feed market will be the largest customer of protein grains. However, developing higher-value food markets is a priority to add value to protein grains and farmers’ incomes."

    Liam Leahy of Dairygold and a member of the group commented: "As a company, we would be delighted to see the protein crop area increasing into the future where we can comfortably use up to four times our current supply, as we find them an ideal crop to work with both with tillage and livestock farmers."

    The Minister announced on Thursday that approximately 850 farmers who planted protein crops in 2021 will be paid €300/ha under the Protein Aid Scheme.