The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has confirmed that his officials are now actively developing a scheme to support the importation of fodder in response to the serious fodder crisis caused by the long and cold winter.
The announcement came after the minister convened a meeting with the farm advisory body Teagasc and other stake holders including dairy co-operatives in Fermoy in Co Cork today.
Earlier, one of the country’s biggest Co-Op’s, Dairygold announced that it has already sourced two and a half thousand tonnes of haylage and hay from the UK and that shipments will start arriving in the country from tomorrow onwards.
Dairygold will distribute the imported fodder through its member network at cost to farmers but called on the Government to assist with the transportation expenses involved.
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Minister Creed said there is no easy solution to the current shortage, and that it will require a collaborative effort from all stakeholders to support affected farmers and ensure adequate feed is available until livestock can be turned out to graze.
The last time fodder was imported in such circumstances was four years ago and on that occasion it required as much as 140,000 tonnes to address the shortage that had developed.
The announcement from the minister came as Met Éireann issued a new status yellow weather warning forecasting low temperatures over the entire country with temperatures dropping as low as minus four degrees overnight and heavy rain for at least eight counties.
Minister Creed said he was also aware of challenges in the arable sector and he has been in touch with EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan in that regard.
Officials are also looking at the Fodder Transport Scheme subsidy, which was introduced for farmers in the northwest in January, to ensure it addresses all areas experiencing shortages.
The scheme provides support for hay, silage and straw being transported over 100 kilometres/
However, the Irish Farmers' Association said that only 15 farmers applied to that scheme as "it was overly bureaucratic".
IFA President Joe Healy said: "Practical, workable measures must be developed and implemented quickly to have a real impact at farm level."
Lakeland Dairies has also said a dedicated helpline has been set up for supplies on 042-9394341.
They have said that farmers should measure their fodder stocks and budget requirements until 1 May before contacting the helpline and report any shortfall or surplus.
The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society has also said it will support farmers through the current crisis.
The president of ICOS said executives from several co-operatives across the country are in the process of sourcing fodder.
Martin Keane said that co-operatives are checking the availability, saying time is of the essence.
He called on the Government to extend transport subsidies to cover imported fodder that will arrive at ports and have to be distributed across the country.
"The Department has a role to play here. Finance is a big issue, but as one farmer recently told me, he said, 'I'd much prefer to be short of money than short of fodder'. And, I suppose, that demonstrates the stress that's out there in the farming community that they would cope better with being short of funds, rather than short of fodder. That's the magnitude of what a fodder crisis is."