Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 29 April 2017

'Brexit is the most serious challenge to Irish farming for half a century'

IFA president Joe Healy
IFA president Joe Healy
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Brexit presents the most serious threat to Irish farming and our agri-food sector for half a century, according to the IFA President, Joe Healy.

Speaking at the Association’s AGM in Dublin, he said that with 40% of Irish food exports going to the UK, no other Member State and no other sector is as exposed in these negotiations.

“Agriculture and food cannot become a battleground between Brussels and London. There are too many farm livelihoods and jobs at stake.

“Politics cannot be allowed override our fundamental economic interests.”

Healy also said that the Irish Government must use the strong relationship it has with both EU and UK leaders to influence a constructive approach to these difficult negotiations.                    

In Brussels, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, must make the retention of free trade in agriculture and food products between the EU and UK a priority, Healy said.

“In the short term, uncertainty has led to the weakening of sterling putting serious pressure on prices and exports.”

Healy, who was elected IFA President last April, after a long, drawn out campaign, said farmers have taken most of the pain resulting from the weakness of sterling.

“Beef farmers took a hit of €150m last year from this alone and mushroom farmers saw their margins wiped out.

“These losses are a direct result of a political decision outside farmers’ control and cannot be tolerated.”

Healy also said that the CAP post 2020 must work for Irish farmers, while there must be a reduction in bureaucracy and red tape, with supports for young farmers and improved volatility and safety net market measures.

“I want to warn politicians today against any reduction in the CAP budget as a result of Brexit.”

He said that at home, we will continue to press Minister for Enterprise, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, on the appointment of an independent retail Ombudsman and a ban on below cost selling.

“Farmers need to have confidence that the Grocery regulations introduced last year to protect suppliers will be enforced.”

And while he welcomed the increased promotional funding for Bord Bia in October’s budget, to diversify and grow our exports into non-UK markets, he said that the Department of Agriculture’s market access unit must be strengthened, with increased resources to deliver new markets, for our processed and live export trade.

“However, opening markets must be more than media announcements. We must be able to achieve a price return for farmers.”

Healy said that 2016 was a difficult year on cattle prices and that after the Brexit referendum, factories took advantage of the uncertainty and seriously undermined market confidence to get prices down.

“Farmers took a hit of up to €100 per head in the Autumn, with a knock on impact on weanling and store producers.

“Irish cattle prices have fallen below the EU average, and an unacceptable price gap has opened up with our main export market in Britain.”

He said that there must be an immediate and substantial price lift and a willingness to offer forward contracts to farmers.

Online Editors