Irish farmers protest against dry grain imports


James Hegarty, a 39-year-old barley grower from Whitechurch, Co Cork, has been a tillage farmer since he left school 20 years ago.

Today, he is “at breaking point”, beaten down by increasing costs, falling prices for his crop and ever-rising regulation.

“It’s really difficult. My wife is working, and, if we didn’t have another income we were in big, big trouble. We are losing money at current prices,” says Hegarty, who sees no future in barley production for either of his children, James (4) or Lucy (3).

Mr Hegarty was one of more than 100 farmers who took part in a protest on Tuesday organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association against the importation of dry barley grain at Foynes Port, Co Limerick.

They claim importers are undercutting Irish farmers by up to €30 a tonne of barley.

“I’m tillage farming all my life, since I left school, nearly 20 years ago. Times are tougher now than ever. Costs are increasing. Red tape is increasing, as are the requirements for quality and traceability,” Mr Hegarty said.

He called for the agricultural sector “to put on the green jersey” and show support for Irish barley growers.

“It’s a circular economy. For every tonne of grain we produce there is another half tonne of straw produced, and that’s a vital input on farms across the country – there’s no straw coming in on a boat,” he said.

Fellow barley grower Billy Cotter claims barley importers and brokers are destroying his livelihood by pricing him out of the market.

Mr Cotter (52) who for the past 30 years has grown barley on his mixed farm in Castletown Roche, Co Cork, said the indigenous cereal sector will die if trends continue.

“We’re fighting for our livelihoods. If we are to have any chance of surviving, this has to stop. If we don’t do something, we are going to be an industry that’s gone out of this country before we know it,” Mr Cotter said.


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