Radical development plan for tillage sector sets ambitious targets

Thu, Nov 8, 2012, 00:00

Land under tillage crops could increase by two-thirds, according to ambitious targets set out in a plan for the sector.

The Tillage Sector Development Plan was compiled by the Teagasc tillage crop stakeholder consultative group. Its chairman, Larry O Reilly, said if all the potential increases in crops set out in the report were achieved, the area under crops could increase by 221,730 hectares. “There would be a cumulative potential to increase the output of the sector by €541 million and to create up to 3,000 new jobs,” he said.

Group member Andy Doyle, tillage editor with the Irish Farmers Journal, said there was potential for increased output in all the main crop areas. “We see oilseed rape as the crop having the greatest potential for expansion,” he said.

Mr Doyle said the livestock sector would need more barley and wheat for feed. “And we want quality Irish grains to help support the ‘brand Ireland’ image that will go with the export products from the livestock sector.”

The plan also includes potential to expand malting barley production and to increase exports of feed grains to Northern Ireland.

Mr Doyle said demand for oats was rising because of increased popularity of porridge and oat-based snacks, and also because of the growing demand from the equine sector.

He said there was “a huge export potential” for sugar beet and energy crops but this was dependent on outside factors such as changes to the sugar beet quota regime and support to foster the development of the energy crop sector.

The plan calls for several actions, including arrangements to help farmers access land at a reasonable cost. It says farm partnerships and leasing should be supported.

In response to the plan, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said it was not “just going to sit on a shelf, I can promise you that”.

Some 9 per cent of farmed land, or 378,000 hectares, is now under crops. There are 11,000 tillage farmers in the State and a further 15,000 people work in food processing companies which are dependent on tillage crops.