Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Government cuts threaten 2020 targets

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

DESPITE claims to the contrary by Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith, ambitious targets set out in the Food Harvest 2020 report two weeks ago appear to many to be dead in the water after the Government slashed capital expenditure .

Capital spending is to be cut from €430m this year to €350m next year and reduced to just €170m from 2012 onwards, returning to pre-2005 levels.

Farming organisations have blasted the capital expenditure budget, not least because it appears to be completely at odds with the 2020 targets.

When Minister Smith announced plans to increase agricultural exports from €7bn to €12bn by 2020, farmers were understandably happy. Finally, the Government had realised that agriculture could play a central role in an export-led recovery.

However, just one week later, the Government announced it would slash capital spending.

The fact of the matter is that expansion requires investment, and the annual allocation of €40m for agriculture and food development will not be enough to achieve the targetted growth in output and exports.

The forestry sector is reeling after its allocation was reduced to €84m a year from 2012 to 2016.

Industry experts say the €20m annual cut in spending will virtualyl close down the afforestation programme and result in major job losses.

Also Read

The Renewed Programme for Government committed to increasing annual planting to 10,000ha a year, but experts say the reduced capital budget will fund 2,000ha a year at best.

Despite heralding forestry as one of the nation's saviours when it comes to climate change, the Govern-ment seems to have no qualms about downgrading its importance when it suits.

It will be difficult for farmers to believe that agriculture is at the heart of any Government plan in the search for an export-led recovery.

  • Declan O'Brien is on annual leave.

Irish Independent