Irish farming – where are we going?

7 Nov

This post/rant is in response to this brilliant article:-

http://permaculturenews.org/2013/11/06/china-soybean-challenge/

‘In 1995, China was producing 14 million tons of soybeans and it was consuming 14 million tons. In 2011, it was still producing 14 million tons of soybeans—but it was consuming 70 million tons, meaning that 56 million tons had to be imported’

This year that figure rises to 68 million tonnes, mostly from South America

http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-21/china-soybean-imports-seen-by-oil-world-jumping-17-next-season.html

Imports rising, pressure from China.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2013/0808/features/china-imports-60000-tonnes-of-genetically-modified-argentine-corn-239237.html

http://www.barchart.com/commodityfutures/Soybean_Meal_Futures/profile/ZM*1

Ireland imports not even 1million tonnes.
http://www.iasoybeans.com/whatnew/release/268

We’re a tiny customer to these companies, if China’s demand for soybean keeps increasing, the feed companies could cut off supply to smaller customers in order to keep their biggest customer. Why wouldn’t they, they’ve their own countries to look after!

I think we are in dangerous position maybe not immediately but sometime in the next 50 years as our economy is so dependent on foreign animal feed. The fodder crisis served to highlight this and coupled with government targets to increase agricultural output here while ignoring this elephant in the room is dangerous and shortsighted. Sure Harvest 2020 mentions ‘alternative crops’ but I’ve seen no evidence of anything big happening, yet. The reality is it costs too much for farmers here to grow peas/beans/grains to feed their animals relative to the price they get per kg at the mart. Thus forcing them to rely on foreign imports.

How can we encourage more farmers to grow these crops?

No. 1 is to invest in processing facilities and also sell FOOD GRADE crops, which will command a higher price and make growing these crops more profitable for farmers. Food Grade Organic Shelled Hempseed costs €8000 a tonne what’s not to like about growing this crop for food/fibre. Why don’t we grow this crop?

From the Irish Times

‘Average farm income last year: €25,483

Dairy farm income: €51,648
Cattle-rearing farm income: €11,743
Direct payments made up 81 per cent of income
Only one third of farms are economically viable
27 per cent of farmers have an off-farm job’

We can use these crops more efficiently by producing them for food and pay farmers properly for what they do best producing food that nourishes us.

Look at Italy for example lots of lovely dried bags of spelt, wheat berries, polenta, cornmeal, barley why can’t we produce this here? Locally produced beans and grains available to buy direct from the farmers or co-ops? What can be done? We already grow oats for food why not expand the range?!

Then maybe farmers will realise that they’re making more money selling protein crops directly for food than trying to feed animals and then sell them.

We can use crops like hemp more efficiently by producing them for food and pay farmers properly for what they do best producing food that nourishes us. So why aren’t we?

I’m waiting on a reply from Teagasc for most of these questions so when I have some answers the reasons why/why not might become clearer. Though €8000 a tonne for a pesticide free native crop is a no-brainer (if we had processing plant)
And that’s just for the shelled seed you can also use all the fibre and meal too.

*End of rant

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