Wheat, Barley and Oats:
Tillage farming in Ireland mainly involves the growing of large areas of cereal monocrops such as wheat, barley and oats.
Over 300,000 hectares of land in Ireland is used for tillage farming. The yield potential of Irish tillage land is among the highest in the world. However, Ireland is a net importer of cereal grains. We imported €326 million of wheat, wheat flour, barley, oats and maize in 2017.
Cereal Farmers and Cereal-based Companies in Ireland:
- Flahavan’s, Co. Waterford
- Kilbeggan Organic Oats, Co. Westmeath
- The Merry Mill, Co. Laois
- Ballymore Organics, Co. Kildare
- Durrow Mills, Co. Westmeath
- Ethica Planet, Co. Offaly
- Irish Grain Growers
Potatoes are grown all over Ireland, in a wide range of soil types, and continue to be a significant part of the Irish diet. We imported €120 million worth of potatoes and frozen potato products in 2017, and exported over €10 million, so there is significant scope for development of the home-grown market.
Irish Potato Farmers:
Sugar production ceased in Ireland in 2006 as a result of EU reforms and incentives for countries with low sugar production (such as Ireland) to exit the system. Up to then, sugar production was worth an annual €150 million to Irish farmers and had been a pillar of Irish agriculture for over 80 years, with 3,700 farmers growing sugar beet at the time of closure of the last sugar plant in Mallow, Co. Cork. Sugar beet growers enjoyed excellent crop yields and returns for many years. Sugar beet also served as an important break crop.
Global competition was also a factor in the shutdown of the industry. The cost of sugar produced in other countries was lower due to lower labour costs. Worker exploitation and slavery are endemic in the sugar industry in Latin America, allowing producers to sell the product cheaply. The production of sugar in these countries is also less likely to be environmentally friendly, possibly involving deforestation in the Amazon.
Ireland currently imports around €300 million of sugar annually.
Organic tillage provides opportunities for farmers, as this article outlines. There is an increasing demand for organic grains (for example, oats) for human consumption, as people become more health conscious and the market for vegan products grows. Information on the Tillage Capital Investment Scheme can be found here.
No-till or zero-till farming is a technique of growing crops without disturbing the soil. It increases the amount of water that infiltrates into the soil, and the soil’s retention of organic matter and its nutrient cycling are improved. In some regions soil erosion is reduced, and the amount and variety of life in the soil is increased. Labour, fuel, irrigation and machinery costs may be reduced. No-till can increase yield due to higher water infiltration and storage capacity, and less erosion.