Tillage Farming


Growth of crops

Over 253,000 hectares of land was Ireland is engaged in tillage farming, or the annual production of crops for harvest in 2018. Cereal crops are the main output, led by flour and malt. Cereals exports were 5% worth €74m in 2018 - an increase of 5% on 2017 (bordbia 2018 - 2019).



As a result of summer drought alongside poor sowing conditions in autumn and winter, overall cereal yields were down.

253,000ha of cereal crops were sown in the 2018 season (down from 7.8% in 2017). Spring barley carried the biggest area in 2018 at 126,200ha. The average yield of spring barley across the country was 5.62t/ha (down 22%). Winter barley came out best with a yield average yield of 8.8t/ha (down 15%).

In 2018, the yield of potatoes decreased by 26.1% from 44.9 tonnes per hectare in 2017 to 33.2 tonnes per hectare in 2018, resulting in a fall in production of 139,000 tonnes (-33.8%) to 273,000 tonnes (CSO, 2019). 

Oilseed rape

Apart from the cereal crops, Irish farmers grow maize, beans, peas, oilseed rape, beet and potatoes. Potato growing in particular has become very intensive, with just 12,200 hectares grown. There are 540 growers who plant more than five hectares each and around 200 specialised growers account for 75% of production. The crop requires exceptionally good land and is now confined to parts of Meath, Louth, Dublin, Wexford, Donegal and Cork. Donegal has a noted tradition of growing potatoes for the seed trade, while Dublin and Meath growers supply the table market in Dublin, as well as the crisp making requirements of the Largo Foods plant at Ashbourne.

Sugar production

Sugar beet was a very popular crop in Ireland from the establishment of Comhlacht Siuicre Eireann (CSE), which was formed when the State took over the ailing Irish Sugar Manufacturing Company’s Carlow factory in 1933.

In 1933-1934, sugar beet processing factories were built in Mallow, Thurles and Tuam. The number of sugar beet growers quickly reached 27,000 by 1936 and peaked at 50,141 in 1943. The company was a huge force in rural Ireland, diversifying through Erin Foods into vegetables.

CSE was limited by a sugar quota after Ireland joined the European Union and the company was privatised as Greencore in 1990. As part of a European restructuring policy, Greencore availed of a fund to controversially close the last remaining sugar beet factory, Mallow, in 2006.

Beet Ireland has recently (2019) postponed its plans to revive the beet industry as it has been viewed that the current level of interest is not sufficiently strong enough to deliver a sugar industry of sufficient scale that is necessary to be competitive at a European or global level. 


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