Part-time farmers who have lost their jobs are turning back to the land and making it viable once more. According to Martin Walsh, general manager of Connacht Gold mart, farming is one business that is set to grow during the current recession.
“People lost interest during the years of the Celtic Tiger but now that the building boom is over and there’s not much else going on, they are finding they have the land and are trying to make it viable again. So there is a renewed interest in farming and people who didn’t have much meas on it before are now going back to their roots.”
Mr Walsh, who oversees the four marts of Balla, Ballinrobe, Mohill, and Ballymote, which have a throughput of 100,000 cattle a year, revealed that cattle prices have been relatively good of late with the average head of cattle now fetching €722.
“At the end of September the average price of cattle was up €22 a head for the year, and while this isn’t astronomical, it is a positive; on the other side it is important to remember that costs are constantly the headache. We would be very anxious meat factories offer competitive prices to farmers that have to put in and feed store cattle over the winter period so that the price they fetch next spring would justify costs and give a fair return.”
Mr Walsh added that sheep farming has also enjoyed renewed interest after being in the doldrums for years. “The way the climate has gone with land so wet sheep are more suitable, compared to a bullock that would do a lot of damage.”
Chairman of Connacht Gold and Westport business man, Padraig Gibbons, agreed that farming is bearing up well for 2010 with dairy producers also enjoying the benefit of a strong euro against sterling in exports.
“Farming is coming into its own even given the current economic situation because, while 09 was a horrific year, 2010 has been a lot better. Prices have increased from the markets and so has the exchange rate with sterling and the dollar, so because we export over 80 per cent of what we produce, this has a big bearing on performance. I would be pretty optimistic about the future of farming and expect it will help in the long-term to improve our balance of payments.”