National farm advisory body Teagasc has published its annual report for 2018 and warned that Brexit and climate change are the two biggest issues facing the agriculture sector. 

The Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle, said 2018 had been a difficult year for the farming sector, "due to weather related difficulties in the winter, spring and summer. 

"The uncertainty created by Brexit has already impacted on the agriculture sector through a weakening of the sterling exchange rate with the euro. Further Brexit related challenges face the sector," Professor Boyle added. 

Teagasc has made a number of investments in research to deal with Brexit related issues. 

More than €6m was invested in a "National Prepared Consumer Foods Centre" at the Teagasc Food Research Centre in Ashtown, Dublin.

This centre is carrying out research into the area of prepared foods, to improve knowledge of the sector here and enhance Ireland's self producing capability.

Speaking as the annual report was launched, the Chairman of the Teagasc Authority, Liam Herlihy, said climate change is on the biggest challenges facing not just the agriculture sector, but everyone. 

Last year Teagasc carried out major research in the climate change area and compiled a report - "Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030".

The report identified measures that can be adopted by farmers to reduce the emissions on farm. 

A wide range of measures identified in the report were later included in the Government Action Plan on climate change. 

"Teagasc is intensifying its knowledge transfer activities with farmers to improve the adoption of these measures, so agriculture is playing its part in addressing the challenge of reducing GHG emissions," the chairman said. 

Last year a national network of 240 Teagasc advisors worked with almost 43,000 farmer clients and a total of 18,507 Teagasc Profit Monitors were completed in total during 2018. 

Excluding the funding for pensions, Teagasc said its income in 2018 came to €195m, up from €187m for 2017. 

It also reported an increase of €6.432m in grant aid compared to 2017.  

Research income increased by €1.924m (6.3%), including increases of €1.835m in externally funded research grants, €481,000 in analysis fees and €523,000 in other research income and a reduction of €988,000 in livestock trading income.  

Teagasc said its knowledge transfer income fell by 12.7% (€3.251m), with a drop of €1.639m in advisory services income and €1.646m in course fee/student fee income. 

Proceeds of €488,000 were secured in 2018 for sales of assets and there was additional one off capital funding of €1.935m for the development of Johnstown Castle and for the purchase of a parcel of farm land, it added.