Calls for 'tone deaf' Government to provide exceptional Brexit aid to farmers

Fianna Fail's Charlie McConalogue.
Fianna Fail's Charlie McConalogue.

Margaret Donnelly and Claire Fox

Fianna Fail has called on the Government to provide exceptional and market disturbance aid for beef as part of a 14-point plan to mitigate against a hard Brexit.

Its spokesperson on agriculture, Charlie McConalogue said the Government must seek relaxation of State aid ceilings in order to increase the grant aid permissible to safeguard exposed exporting enterprises and associated jobs from Brexit in the agrifood sector.

Launching the plan this morning in Dublin, he said the Government has been "tone deaf" over the last number of months in particular with beef prices.

"Many beef farmers are under the water as they stand and the government have not been understanding of that and this is in the backdrop of Brexit when the national message has been to hope for the best but to prepare for the worst.

"If you back to the budget that was announced in 2017 Minister Creed announced that day that there was going to be a Brexit loan scheme and support the agri food sector in relation to a hard Brexit and anytime myself or my colleagues have been challenging him since that his big response has already been don’t worry we have that loan scheme coming and where has it been?

"I see this morning just a few hours before we bring this motion to the Dail, Minister Creed is now announcing that loan scheme. Two years since he indicated it was going to be forth coming."

According to McConalogue, prices have been affected and farmers are losing money. "The Government needs to work with the EU to give clarity to what supports will be ready. The one thing the government could have done to try and improve prices was to try and improve export facilities from the country in to France but the Government has been asleep on the job in his department to ensure additional facilities are there.

"As a result of that the good markets that are there in France and Spain have not been exploited."

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Fianna Fail's plan calls on the Government to work with Bord Bia, livestock exporters and French authorities to deliver enhanced lairage capacity at Cherbourg Port in order to increase the live export of calves and to deliver a fully funded, fair, and simpler CAP post 2020 that safeguards direct payments with measures to directly support all low-income farm sectors, the including the beef sector.

It also calls for the introduction of a beef market index for price transparency as committed to under the Beef Forum and an examination of the feasibility with stakeholders of requiring processors to report wholesale prices on a regular basis.

McConalogue said increased farmer transparency must be introduced, along with more robust measures around carcase trim and grading, including publishing details of on-the-spot fines for factories breaching. 

Other measures being called for include strengthening the position of the primary producer in the food supply chain and transpose EU Directive on unfair trading practices into Irish law swiftly, and consultation with stakeholders to tackle any barriers associated with setting up beef Purchasing Organisations.

He said the beef sector and suckler farmers must be protected in all upcoming EU trade deals and the Government must reject increased beef access in any potential agreement with South American Mercosur countries.

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