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To sow or not to sow – the dilemma facing West Cork tillage farmers

November 14th, 2016 9:15 AM

By Southern Star Team

Oliver O'Driscoll pictured in his ruined 16-acre field of barley at Innishannon.

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TILLAGE farmers in West Cork, especially those close to the coast, have endured a particularly bad harvest due all the wet weather we had in this part of the country in August and September, which disrupted harvesting and affected the quality of the crops.

While local farmers, including Ardfield’s David O’Brien, paid tribute to the West Cork co-ops for delivering a what he described as decent prices in the circumstances, others were reticent about whether to go ahead with sowing this autumn in spite of the ideal conditions for doing so that have transpired since early October.

Last year, resowing was required on a lot of land by the coast and it was these farmers who suffered the most from the bad harvest this year. 

However, many of them are tied into leases and will probably go ahead again this year anyway, in spite of the fact that prices have been well down on recent years, due to a bumper worldwide grain harvest, while inputs have remained the same or even increased.

In September, we highlighted the case of one farmer, Oliver O’Driscoll from Crookstown, who sowed barley in Innishannon in mid-May only to see the 16-acre field end up with heads of barley badly blackened and flattened by the bad weather four months later, as he hoped for a break in the weather to try to salvage something.

Oliver estimated that the loss of the crop would cost him in the region of €10,000. He also had fields of straw elsewhere that could not be baled because they were so wet. 

Mr O’Driscoll called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to compensate tillage farmers who have been badly affected by the bad weather and heavy rainfall and to pay them for the loss of their crops: ‘It is no different to the compensation paid to the business people whose stores were destroyed during the floods.’ 

His call was reiterated by Cork South West TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony last week, when she claimed the Minister for Agriculture ‘either doesn’t care about the pressure that tillage farmers are under, or doesn’t understand what’s happening.

‘Since early September, she said, ‘I and my colleagues in Fianna Fáil have called for a fund for these farmers. Not only are they dealing with a bad harvest, but they, like the rest of the farming community, are contending with serious cashflow issues.

‘The Minister’s failure to grasp the seriousness of this situation is shocking,’ she declared. 

The West Cork co-ops paying prices above international market levels has eased the blow somewhat for local tillage farmers for now, but some caught in a dilemma will be engaged in soul searching about the long-term viability of staying involved in this area of agriculture with worldwide prices so low.

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