Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

Angry farmers say €13.7m EU aid is 'minuscule' amid slumping prices

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Farming bodies have criticised Ireland's slice of the €500m EU aid package as "minuscule".

EU agriculture ministers met in Luxembourg to finalise details of the measures designed to help plummeting prices in the dairy and pigmeat sector.

Under the blueprint set out, Ireland will receive almost €13.7m in once-off direct aid to help ease financial woes.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the department would now discuss with bodies in the industry the best way to use the funds to support Irish farmers.

But Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Eddie Downey said Ireland's share of the €420m targeted aid from the €500m support package was totally inadequate to deal with the income difficulties on Irish farms.

"The minister must come forward in the upcoming Budget with a package of measures from national level, that ensures full funding for the farm schemes and new taxation measures to address farm structural and income volatility issues," he said.

John Comer, president of another farming body, the ICMSA, said any additional payment would be welcome.

However, he described the level of funding for Irish farmers as "minuscule" compared with the losses suffered by dairy farmers, whose payment had slumped by a third compared with last year.

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Mr Comer said they estimated the direct losses to dairy farmers so far this year amounted to €380m. Mr Comer said it was "foolish" for the agriculture ministers to believe the package of measures was anywhere near sufficient to combat the downturn in prices.

However, as part of the package, Irish farmers will receive more than €700m under the direct payments scheme from Brussels next month. After the agreement was struck at the Farm Council meeting, Commissioner Phil Hogan agreed to increase the normal October payment of 50pc of money up to 70pc to help improve liquidity on farms.

Other measures included as part of the package involve an increase in private storage aid to stabilise the markets.

Mr Coveney said the increase of more than 100pc in the rate of private storage aid for skimmed milk powder was "significant" and combined with the extended storage periods would have an impact on the market.

"The reintroduction of private storage aid for cheese and pigmeat and the improved aid rates and conditions will also help to bring the markets back into balance," he said, after pig-meat sales were hit by the Russian ban on EU imports.

Mr Coveney said moves must be made quickly to finalise it.

Patrick Kent, from the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association, also called for a share of the emergency funds for the beef and sheep producers who are also being affected by the Russian ban on imports, which is hampering the meat market.

Irish Independent