‘Supermarket prices are an insult to food producers’
While Brexit continues to be a concern for Irish farmers, their number one problem is still prices.
According to IFA president Joe Healy, farmers in Ireland and across Europe are being squeezed by market fluctuations on one side, and by big supermarket chains on the other.
He lashed out again at recent promotions by SuperValu, offering free vegetables when customers bought roast beef, which was sold at knock-down prices.
"That's an insult to food and an insult to the producers of food," he told the Irish Independent. "It also adds to food waste."
Farm input costs - particularly fertilisers - and access to affordable loans are the other two major issues Mr Healy hopes the EU will tackle as a matter of urgency.
"The cost of fertilisers is hammering farmers and damaging the competitiveness of Irish and EU agriculture," he said, calling on the EU to abolish duties and tariffs on fertiliser imports.
Fertiliser is the second-largest expenditure for Irish farms, particularly since the introduction of anti-dumping duties on imports of mainly Russian fertilisers in 1994.
He says the move has sent fertiliser prices rising at twice the rate of other farm inputs.
New trade deals and emission-reduction targets coming down the road will also hit farmers hard.
The EU recently kicked off a public discussion on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is likely to link farm subsidies more closely to environmental efforts.
A new study by the European Parliament found that if farmers adopted new technologies and agricultural practices, they could cut livestock emissions by around 30pc, but it said many would be expensive to implement, suggesting as an alternative, a tax on meat products or mandatory livestock emission reductions.
"Agriculture is always going to be responsible for a high percentage of emissions in Ireland," Mr Healy said.
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