As the Deputy is aware, 2018 presented the agriculture community with some very challenging conditions in terms of a prolonged wet Spring period followed almost immediately by a period of exceptionally dry, hot weather.
My priority throughout 2018 was to support measures to assist in the conservation of as much fodder for this Winter/Spring as possible from within our own resources and to supplement this with necessary imports as required. I established an Inter Agency Fodder Group under the direction of Teagasc and comprising representatives of the various stakeholders to address issues around fodder conservation and best practice etc. In addition I introduced a number of targeted measures including:
- a €2.75 million Fodder Production Incentive for Tillage Farmers to encourage growers to actively engage in the fodder market and there has been positive engagement with this measure.
- a €4.25 million Fodder Import Support Measure for Autumn 2018. The measure sought to reduce the cost to farmers of imported forage. The measure operated through the Co-operatives/registered importers and covered additional forage imported into the country. I am advised that there remains significant reserves of imported fodder in storage at present through these co-ops.
I have also asked Teagasc to monitor the situation carefully in 2019. The most recent national fodder survey conducted by Teagasc on my behalf, in January, indicates that the fodder deficit has receded further. The most recent statistics show that 73% of farmers have sufficient fodder to meet their livestock’s requirements. Additionally the survey shows a steady decrease in the percentage of farms reporting deficits of over 10% since the last survey in October of last year (22% in October versus 15% in January).
Whilst we did see a return to normal growing conditions in the autumn/early winter and provided farmers with an excellent opportunity to replenish fodder stocks, coupled with what has been a mild winter, it is important to stress that there still remains a need for farmers to remain vigilant and avoid complacency. I have urged Teagasc and the other Stakeholders to continue their individual efforts in support of those farmers worst affected and in need of help.
I can assure the Deputy that I, together with my officials, will continue to closely monitor the fodder situation.