The wet Irish summer has devastated fruit crops in South Tipp with one local grower reporting a 75% fall in his apple crop, and agricultural advisers offering help to many more farmers than they would usually see this time of year.
Over half the annual rainfall of a wet Irish year fell in the last 12 weeks - affecting crop growth and the grazing season for animals. Advisors are urging good management and planning and a long term view to get through this difficult period on the land.
Con Traas, of The Apple Farm near Clonmel, told The Nationalist this week that his crop of eating apples is 25% of normal this year. His cooking apple crop has also been halved. However his story is not as worrying as orchards he has visited where there are no apples at all.
“In general apple crops are light. I have visited a few orchards that have no apples at all. Half is as good as it gets in the best circumstances.
“Maybe once every 10 or 15 years we get that weather in Ireland - early spring followed by a harsh spell of weather. Sometimes it’s localised, this year it affects everyone,” Mr Traas said.
Supply of apples will be short and prices will rise, he estimates by between 10% and 15% in shops.
Mr Traas said his own business had a good run with soft fruits this year, strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Apples only make up about one-third of his crop so this bad harvest will not put him out of business. “There are one or two growers I would have concerns about. They are hanging on by their finger nails for a few years, if prices are up they may just hang on this year.”
On a positive note, Mr Traas said that next year could bring a bumper crop of apples, because trees that are light on fruit one year try to compensate the following year.
The message to seek advice and take a planned, long term view is the advice of farming organisations.
Donal Mullane, of Teagasc, told The Nationalist advisors are busier than normal for this time of year. All parts of the county have been affected, but particularly heavier areas in West Tipp and some of the Slieveardagh area. Stock has had to be housed for long periods of time, adding significant cost to farmers.
The winter barley crop is now completed and yields and quality have been disappointing, according to Mr Mullane. Wet conditions are dictating when winter wheat and spring barley can be harvested and farmers and hopeful of better weather.
“The difficult weather has led to cashflow problems on some farms but we had a very bad year in 2009 followed by two good years. Banks will be aware of the cyclical nature of farm incomes and cash flow.”
Teagasc are providing help to farmers on how best to deal with the weather conditions and plan for the coming winter, taking into account all aspects that need to be addressed. “In many cases individual attention is key and I would urge farmers to contact their Teagasc adviser to assist in drawing up individual farm plans and fodder levels,” said Mr Mullane.
Chairman of Tipperary ICMSA, Seamus Troy, said problems caused by the atrocious weather require a proactive approach from the Department of Agriculture, co-ops, banks and local authorities. “Tipperary ICMSA is receiving reports from members throughout the county in relation to the failure to harvest silage crops, cattle being housed for long periods, reduced milk production, very poor grazing conditions, damage to land at harvesting, flood damage, increased concentrate feed bills as well as the pressures arising from increased costs and the sharp reduction in milk price over the last few months”, said Mr Troy, who farms at Coalbrook, Thurles.