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Government announces plans to import fodder ... but criticism of the shortages rumbles on

The weather since Christmas has meant poor grass growth and a lack of fodder for animals.

Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been criticised for delaying its response to the fodder crisis as it today announced that fodder will have to be imported following months of difficult farming conditions due to wet weather.

Farmers usually purchase enough fodder – dried hay or feed given to cattle and livestock – to last until the spring when the grass begins to grow and animals can begin to eat that instead.

However, the weather since Christmas has meant poor grass growth and a lack of fodder for animals. This means that the animals have had to be kept indoors.

Farmers across the country have been calling for an emergency response to the situation since as early as November.

Speaking after a meeting with Teagasc and industry representatives today, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said that he has asked government officials to develop a scheme to support the import of fodder from outside Ireland.

He added that there is no simple solution to the current shortages and said that it will require a collaborative effort of all stakeholders to support affected farmers to ensure adequate feed supplies are available.

“This is a very difficult period for some farmers around the country. Officials from my department, in conjunction with Teagasc and the co-ops, have been actively monitoring the availability of fodder supplies for purchase by farmers,” Creed said.

Criticism 

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has hit out at Creed for “exacerbating the fodder shortage crisis” by failing to engage in talks early enough and failing to put in place sufficient measures to support farmers facing shortages.

“From last October farmers and Sinn Féin were raising warnings regarding fodder shortages,” Carthy said.

It appears now that Minister Creed has finally accepted that there is a crisis and has acknowledged that it is likely to become more critical.

“The delay and inaction in the government’s response to the issues of fodder shortages have exacerbated the problems,” he said.

Similarly, the Green Party has called on the government to revise its food production strategy in light of the current fodder shortages.

Speaking today, Green Party spokesperson on Agriculture Pippa Hackett said: “Unfortunately, it will be the farmer who will ultimately carry the costs from this crisis, whether in terms of increased costs of production, or loss of revenue from the loss of stock through death, or having to sell stock prematurely.

Smaller farms will probably feel the pinch most of all.

Other government responses

Minister Creed has also asked departmental officials to examine the current Fodder Transport Support measure in order to “ensure it adequately addresses all experiencing fodder shortages”.

This scheme provides support for transport of hay, silage and straw being transported over 100 kilometres.

Meetings are being arranged between the Minister and the main banks to discuss steps to alleviate the short-term financial pressures arising for farmers dealing with fodder shortages.

Teagasc has previously announced that it has set up a Forage Register to help farmers who have run out of silage and other fodder to source supplies from those with a surplus. Farmers who have silage they can sell can ring their Teagasc office to get it listed on the register. The body will then put struggling farmers in contact with those who have a surplus.

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