Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

EU refuses to increase intervention prices

Farmers showered police with straw and set bales alight during their protest in Brussels. AFP/Getty Images.
Farmers showered police with straw and set bales alight during their protest in Brussels. AFP/Getty Images.

The European Commission has emphatically ruled out any increase in intervention prices as a mechanism to remedy the current family farm income crisis.

The EU executive yesterday unveiled a €500m package aimed at helping farmers through a crisis afflicting all sectors but most notably dairy and pigmeat producers.

The package put together by Irish Commissioner Phil Hogan includes the early payment by October 16 next of 70pc of voluntary coupled supports and young farmer grants, and up to 85pc of area-based rural development payments.

The plan also holds out the prospect of more EU direct income support for Irish farmers. But Brussels officials said it was too early to say what Ireland's share of a special income aid fund will actually be.

However, to the great disappointment of the Irish farm unions, there was absolutely no movement on dairy intervention prices.

Presenting the package, which includes aids for private storage of dairy products, EU Commission vice-president, Jyrki Katanien of Finland, insisted increasing the intervention price would not deliver more money to farmers.

"We owe it to farmers to make it clear that this is not appropriate policy response to the current situation," said Commissioner Katanien, who was deputising for Commissioner Hogan who has been hospitalised in Dublin due to illness.

The special meeting of the 28 EU Agriculture Ministers came as 5,000 farmers gathered in protest around the Council of Ministers building in Brussels.

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A heavy force of Belgian riot police, backed up by armed soldiers, was on duty and the major difficulty was the traffic gridlock.

Reacting to the aid package IFA president, Eddie Downey, said the measures were insufficient and it was very disappointing that dairy intervention price was not addressed. "Intervention is the only thing which will put a floor under prices and put confidence back into the market," Mr Downey told the Farming Independent.

ICMSA president, John Comer, said milk prices to dairy farmers were down over 35pc right across the EU in the past year.

But consumers are paying almost exactly the same price for milk, butter and cheese as they did a year ago.

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