Con­trac­tors hit hard by fod­der cri­sis fall­out

FCI pro­pose voucher scheme to help farm­ers clear con­tract­ing debt

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - DEREK CASEY

CON­TRAC­TORS have called on the Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture, Michael Creed, to es­tab­lish a ded­i­cated fund to help farm­ers pay out­stand­ing debts.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Farm and Forestry Con­trac­tors in Ire­land (FCI) claim that re­duced cash­flow and the re­cent fod­der cri­sis have se­ri­ously hit mem­bers’ in­comes as many farm­ers have been un­able to pay for work car­ried out over the last year.

FCI has called for the es­tab­lish­ment of a Con­trac­tor Voucher Scheme, with the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture pro­vid­ing con­trac­tors with ac­cess to a spe­cial Iden­ti­fier num­ber in order to man­age the op­er­a­tion of the fund.

The group also called on fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions to adopt an un­der­stand­ing ap­proach to farm-re­lated con­trac­tor debt.

Farm­ers needed to be en­cour­aged to man­age their con­trac­tor debt in a struc­tured way, FCI in­sisted.

De­spite the weather headaches, anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gests in­creased sales of si­lage har­vest­ing ma­chin­ery this year. Close to 40 new self-pro­pelled har­vesters have been sold, in­dus­try sources in­di­cated.

FCI re­search shows that con­trac­tors have in­vested in ex­cess of €25m this year in new si­lage-har­vest­ing ma­chin­ery.

How­ever, a lot of those sales took place be­fore the full ex­tent of the re­cent weather dif­fi­cul­ties emerged.

Mean­while, FCI chair­man Richard White warned that the si­lage sea­son will be a month later than nor­mal this year.

“Given the weather con­di­tions, we are now pre­dict­ing that the na­tional grass si­lage har­vest will be three weeks to a month later than nor­mal,” Mr White said.

Slurry dead­line

“We are also con­cerned that the later si­lage sea­son of 2018 will put ad­di­tional pres­sures on farm con­trac­tors to meet the needs of dero­gated farm­ers who will be re­quired to ad­here to the new slurry-spread­ing dead­line date of June 15.

“This new date will be lo­gis­ti­cally dif­fi­cult to achieve as we now ex­pect that first-cut si­lage har­vest will run to this date and beyond on many farms. With that in mind FCI is seek­ing an ex­ten­sion of this slurry spread­ing date for dero­gated farm­ers.”

All FCI mem­bers report that their spring work ac­tiv­i­ties are at least one month be­hind their nor­mal sched­ule, Mr White said.

“Many were not able to carry out any farm ma­chin­ery work dur­ing April due to the poor weather con­di­tions,” he said.

“There is still a huge back­log of ce­real-sow­ing work to be un­der­taken, par­tic­u­larly in the south­east, and maize sow­ing has not yet be­gun.”

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