Only sustainable grain prices can underpin future of tillage sector – Spink

Tillage farmers must receive sustainable grain prices if the sector is to be stabilized and primed for future growth, according to the head of environment, crops and land use program at Teagasc.

John Spink has also warned that developing higher value markets for Irish grains and pulses is essential as the tillage sector looks to the future.

He said: “Products must be developed that have the unique selling point of having been produced from Irish grains.

“If this can be achieved, then Irish tillage farmers are not exposed to world markets.

“In other words, companies developing specific food and drink products must buy their grains from Irish growers”.

He believes that the food ingredients’ sector has tremendous potential to deliver for Irish tillage farmers.

Spink has highlighted research work carried out by Teagasc that showcased the potential for beans in this context.

“The potential to add value to rape is another possibility. There is no reason why Irish rape seed cannot be developed as a valuable export opportunity.

“But developments of this nature will need support, in order to get them off the ground. Looking long term, we must act to insulate Irish grain from the volatility of world markets,” he added.

Spink has also pointed out that animal feed represents the bottom tier of the grain market.

He said: “A lot of byproducts are currently used within the feed sector.

“So why can’t the Irish tillage sector adopt this approach: extract the high value proportion of our grain and pulses for those value added opportunities and then direct the byproducts that remain towards the animal feed industry.”

He said the research undertaken at Teagasc confirmed that it was feasible to extract high value plant proteins from the likes of beans but he said the next step is to drive all of this forward at a commercial level.”

According to the head of environment, crops and land use program at Teagasc, who is also a member of the Food Vision Tillage Group, there are a number of challenges facing the sector which the group intends to focus on.

“Given the year that we have had, policy issues will come to the fore. The focus will be on delivering support to tillage farmers, and this will be needed.”

“Politicians change regularly. But in the longer term, the tillage sector must be inherently profitable.

“The market needs to be returning a profit in terms of what is produced. Growers should not be relying on the tax man,” he added.


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