Extreme weather leaves farmers and fishermen on brink of ruin
SOME farmers and fisherman are facing financial ruin as a result of the recent stormy weather.
Relentless bad weather has caused thousands of hectares of farmland to remain submerged under flood waters while hundreds of trawlers and their fishing crews have been unable to fish for several weeks.
Irish Farmers Association president Eddie Downey said the extreme weather since the start of the year, coupled with the start of the lambing and calving season, was making conditions for farm families around the country "very difficult".
He warned that farmers' only sources of income – their farms – remain under water and beyond use. Saturated land means all livestock have to be housed for some time yet with an inevitable increase in workload and costs as a result, he said.
But despite the hardships, consumers will not be paying higher prices because supplies of food coming to market were assured, said farm organisations.
And shops are getting supplies of fish from frozen stocks and from imports from Britain.
Most fishermen have not been able to put to sea for the past eight weeks and are suffered "huge stress" with no income to meet mortgage repayments on homes and trawlers, said Francis O'Donnell of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IRPO).
He told the Irish Independent that 70 to 80pc of trawlers have been forced to remain tied up in harbours for two months because of storms and ongoing gales.
"It's 15 years since we've suffered such a prolonged spell of storms of this magnitude. And it doesn't look like abating anytime soon.
"Just like farmers, we are food producers too. Fishermen should have more access to compensation," said Mr O'Donnell, chief executive of the IFPO.
The Federation of Irish Fishermen, in a letter to be sent to Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney, are warning that some fishermen are now considering bankruptcy.
There is no access to temporary social welfare payments for fishermen and many are becoming increasingly desperate. Compensation available for lobster and other inshore fishermen must be extended to trawlers unable to catch whitefish, they claim.
John Comer, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, welcomed comments from Government ministers confirming additional flood relief funding.
But in light of the "astonishing levels of damage" inflicted by Storm Darwin, he urged the Government to urgently re-visit their decision not to apply to the EU's Solidarity Fund for assistance in repairing wrecked infrastructure and businesses all over Ireland.
Mr Comer said the "utter destruction" of farm facilities and farmland in the worst affected areas must result in those farmers being included in any compensation package.
He said he had enormous sympathy for the flood-hit people in towns and cities but many farming communities, particularly in the West, suffered huge destruction.