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Irish Farmers Monthly, Castlecourt, Glenageary, Co. Dublin.
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Irish agriculture must
change with the times
Looking back at 2019 it is clear the economic sustainability
of most farming sectors is under pressure. The challenges
facing Irish food producers are, if anything, increasing
in number and intensity. Prices have reduced across all
commodities, with the exception of pigmeat which has
received a welcome price boost in recent weeks. The
near collapse in beef prices during the year resulted in
a series of factory protests by frustrated farmers which
ultimately led to a backlog in fi nished cattle supplies. This in turn delayed
any price increase on foot of rising demand on international markets,
with China alone having an estimated ten million tonne meat protein
defi cit following on from that country's ASF-induced pig cull. That's
two million tonnes more than is consumed in the EU annually. The case
for a signifi cant beef price rise is now unarguable. When it happens
depends to some extent on farmer and farm organisation pressure being
brought to bear on the beef processors. The fragmentation of our farmer
representative structure is not in our best interests. It does not stop at the
livestock sector. Various sectoral groupings are claiming to best represent
tillage, hill and other farmer interests. No one can doubt their integrity or
well-meaning rationale. That doesn't mean that farmers are best served
by their existence or actions. When Ireland joined the Common Market
in 1973 there were 250,000 Irish farms. There are now less than half that
number. Our impact on the Irish economy has also reduced. Forty-six
years ago, agricultural exports accounted for 18 per cent of GDP and
40 per cent of all exports. Today, while nominal volumes and value have
increased exponentially, agri-food, as a percentage of GDP, has dropped
by almost two-thirds while the value of agri-food exports is one-tenth
of all exports. Those are still impressive fi gures and food production
remains the single largest indigenous industry in the country. The fi gures
also show the reduction in relative importance of agriculture to the Irish
economy. All the foregoing statistics reinforce the absolute need for a
united representative structure for Irish farmers. Trade Unions learned
that lesson a long time ago. Farmers are under assault from far more than
low prices, weather and climate change mitigation regulations. We may
legitimately criticise the logic of vegan ideology and the emergence of
substitute foods to replace meat and dairy. It is likely that many of these
substitute foods will be found wanting in the essential requirements of
human nutrition but that will hardly prevent their continuing development
and adoption by at least a minority of consumers. For Irish farmers and
food businesses, the challenge will be to continue to di erentiate our
food as nutritionally superior, with the added benefi ts of being sustainably
produced to the highest standards of animal and environmental care.
That, in turn, must secure a premium price for the primary producer.
In this issue of IFM we look at the Business of Farming from various
perspectives. For many farmers, existing enterprises will continue to
deliver viable incomes, provided farmers adapt to new circumstances
and continuously monitor their fi nancial performance. Change will be
necessary for everyone, whether that means adding value to output or
adopting new practices and enterprises. It is a well-worn adage that
doing the same thing year after year and expecting a di erent outcome is
not a sound business model. The New Year may require new thinking.
We wish all our readers a Happy Christmas!
4 Upfront
8 Business
12 Lead: Challenges facing
next IFA president
14 Education
49 Management Hints
54 Machinery
64 Rural Life
67 Competiton
68 Safety
69 Motor
70 The Very End
The Business of Farming:
Sustainability Focus
18 Sustainability in agriculture
24 On-farm diversifi cation
30 Preparation for succesful forestry
32 All change at Glanbia and Kerry
36 Biogas presents opportunity for
40 World's fi rst production T6
Methane Power Tractor unveiled

Sustainable moves:
The business of farming
EMBER 2019