Future of Irish beef industry at stake
Speaking ahead of this evening’s Dáil statements on the beef crisis, Labour Agriculture spokesperson Willie Penrose TD has said:
“What is needed now is for cool heads to prevail and all sides to reflect carefully on the agreement reached in the past number of days.
“Agreements by necessity are predicated on compromise, which eventually means that none of the parties achieve everything they set out as their objectives or goals.
“Farmers are justifiably frustrated about the low price of beef compared to the price of production and their desperate income situation, which would be even worse if it weren’t for the Single Farm Payment.
“There has been a perfect storm brewing in the agriculture sector in recent years, compounded by the prospect of a no deal Brexit in six weeks time, and the overhanging cloud of a loss in CAP payments when the UK does leave the EU.
“There are numerous other threats facing the industry including changing consumer habits, climate change issues and the impact of supermarkets and retailers. The abolition of milk quotas also plays a part, as well as the fluctuating currency.
“The EU beef market is already highly competitive and market prices are low, which could be driven lower if the Mercosur agreement allows extra beef into the market.
“The current beef crisis is a manifestation of all these problems and peoples’ livelihoods are at stake. Six thousand workers have been laid off, many of whom don’t have access to social welfare payments. They too have no time to lose in getting factories back into full operation.
“All sides now need to reflect on what has been agreed and space must be given to see whether the deal will affect the desired changes.
“In the immediate future, we must plan for a sustainable future for farmers and workers in the food sector.
“We’re also calling on the Government to establish a long-term review of the viability of family farms, and the possibility of a farm income diversification programme, which wold help farm families to identify new uses for their land, and additional ways to supplement their incomes.
“The viability of our farming way of life is not just about some products, but it is about the long-term future of living on the land.
“We need to take this bigger perspective, to ensure we’re not misleading our famers about the substantiality of their incomes.”