Based on the Teagasc mid-year farm income assessment, Irish dairy farmers are facing an €800m income hit in 2018 according to Pat McCormack, President of ICMSA.
Mr McCormack added that the situation could get even worse depending on weather conditions between now and next April and said this is the dairy sector alone and does not take account of the equally significant income hits in the other farm sectors.
"Let's be very clear, the impact of the weather-related issues in farming since this last time year will not only hit farmers pockets but will impact right across rural Ireland and this is an issue that will simply have to be moved up the agenda of Government," he told www.leitrimobserver.ie
Having met members across the country this week, Mr McCormack said, that the level of concern and stress on farmers is unprecedented and at this stage, very concrete measures are going to have be implemented to boost fodder supplies and secondly reduce demand for fodder.
In this regard, ICMSA is repeating its calls for a fodder import scheme, the fodder shortage is fast becoming an EU wide problem and if we don’t move now, fodder may not be available later in the year.
"The Government need to be proactive on this and we cannot depend on a “hope for the best” policy, we need to start importing fodder now and the Government need to support it. Secondly, and equally important, we need to reduce the demand for fodder through significant live exports and the Government must bring in the meat processors and agree a plan that will allow farmers reduce stock numbers in a financially feasible way," he pointed out.
"From speaking to farmers, the fodder deficits on farms with probably three months growth at best left this year is alarming and the Government need to put in place effective measures now. In addition, cashflow pressures are now also coming to the fore and the Brexit Loan scheme has to be implemented. This was announced almost a year ago and farmers cannot understand why it has not been implemented which is in sharp contrast to the loan scheme for other SME’s which has been in place for many months. We’re in a cashflow crisis and this loan scheme must be rolled out now."
In terms of advance payments, the farming leader noted, the reality is that farmers have received these advances in previous years and it is only giving farmers their payment six weeks early and while acknowledging that BPS payments have improved considerably, all farmers must receive their payment on October 16 and secondly, GLAS payments must be made within the Charter commitments, otherwise, an advance payments is irrelevant.
"GLAS payments have not been made within Charter in previous years and this cannot re-occur in 2018. The GLAS conditions must also be further reviewed to allow the maximum amount of fodder to be harvested from GLAS farms over the remainder of this year," he said.
Concluding, Mr McCormack said, that we need to see an immediate Government response in terms of a fodder import scheme and measures to reduce the demand for fodder if we are to avert a disaster this winter.
"The farm sector plays a critical role in supporting rural communities and indeed the national economy. We are taking an enormous hit at present and the Government need to act to support the sector."