Belfast Telegraph

Once-in-a-generation drought could threaten livelihoods

Farmers have indicated there could be problems with the wheat and barley harvest if there is no rain in the next few weeks.

There could be a serious threat to livelihoods as the once-in-a-generation drought continues to plague the country, according to the Irish Farmers Association.

IFA President Joe Healy said the current dry weather is causing problems for farmers who rely on solely on rainfall for grass and crop growth.

On Monday he said: “We are dealing with a once-in-a-generation weather event which is posing really difficult challenges for some farmers.

“For livestock farmers, soil moisture and high temperatures are impacting on grass growth rates.

“Farmers are using fodder supplies to feed animals, but the worry now is how quickly growth will resume and whether farmers will be able to save enough silage and hay for the winter ahead, particularly as reserves were well depleted during the extended poor weather conditions earlier this year.”

Farmers have indicated there could be problems with the wheat and barley harvest if there is no rain in the next few weeks, as the crops depend on rainfall rather than irrigation.

Lettuce and other vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower could be also face short supply as high temperatures and little rainfall can effect production.

Irish consumers could be forced to pay for the shortage as the knock-on effect will result in a price hike for vegetables affected by the heat.

Crop losses look inevitable Joe Healy, IFA President

“Crop losses look inevitable with growers facing a situation where winter crops in the ground are stressed, and spring crops planted about eight weeks ago have not had any rain since” Mr Healy added.

“The continuing trend of low prices on the one side and increasing input prices on the other is placing cereal and vegetable production in this country under threat.

“All stakeholders will have to sit up and take note of the difficulties farmers are facing and realise that they must work with their growers to sustain them through this difficult period.”

Graham Cunningham, a buyer for Total Produce Food Service, said: “I’ve spoken to local growers who have said if it doesn’t rain soon there will be shortages of produce, definitely.

“It’ll be harder on smaller, local producers but this kind of ongoing drought is tough on everyone.

“They seem to be kept going for now, but they’re taking it day by day.

“If there is shortages, companies like ours are forced to import produce from abroad which could have a knock on effect in price eventually.”

Irish Water has agreed to accommodate farmers impacted by reduced water supply from public water sources, to ensure they have sufficient water for animals and other needs on farms.

The weather has been dry since late February this year with Met Eireann reporting the level of rainfall is on par with 1976 when the last major drought took place.

The hot weather is showing no signs of abating with “little or no rain forecast” this week across the country.

Met Eireann’s status yellow drought warning remains in place, as this week gets underway as temperatures reached as high as 27 degrees on Monday.

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