Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

IFA: Price slump drives farm incomes to breaking point

Protest highlights plummeting margins in dairy, grain and pigmeat sectors

Farmers protesting outside the EU Commission offices on Lower Mount Street in Dublin. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Farmers protesting outside the EU Commission offices on Lower Mount Street in Dublin. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

More than 2,000 farmers marched in Dublin yesterday to demand immediate action on the farm income crisis facing tens of thousands of families.

IFA members released pigs, spilled grain and led a dairy cow through the city streets as they picketed the EU Commission offices on Lower Mount Street.

The protest came ahead of a farmers' rally in Brussels next Monday which will demand action over plummeting milk prices, the Russian ban on dairy and pigmeat imports, and the potential income crisis facing grain farmers.

The IFA's leader Eddie Downey has warned farmers in many sectors are under "severe pressure" due to factors including the year-long Russian ban on EU imports combined with severe price volatility.

"Political decisions on farm policies taken in Europe over the Russian trade ban means there is an oversupply of dairy and pigmeat in the EU markets," he said, ahead of next week's EU emergency meeting of Agriculture Ministers.

The plunge in milk prices is part of a 'treble whammy' for dairy farmers as some have been hit with a share of Ireland's €69m superlevy bill and are also facing high tax bills following last year's buoyant prices.

Sean O'Leary, the IFA's dairy committee chair, called for the EU Commission to use the €800m superlevy fund to support dairy farmers.

Plummeting prices for milk on the world dairy markets has seen the margins for dairy farmers fall by over 90pc over the last 16 months, he warned.

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EU countries are expected to call for milk market intervention prices to support farmers at next week's Brussels meeting. Mr O'Leary said those prices must be raised to deliver a "genuine safety net" for farmers.


The IFA's grain committee chair, Liam Dunne, warned many tillage farmers were under huge "psychological" and financial pressures following recent broken weather and below cost grain prices for the third year in a row.

Protestors called for action for pig farmers who are in a "serious loss-making situation" and the EU Commission must look to reopen key markets, including Russia, for pork products.

Yesterday's protest in Dublin follows a summer of discontent that saw a rise in agri 'nationalism' as French farmers blockaded factories and ports over prices and demanded food imports to be taken off shop shelves.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney met with EU Commissioner Phil Hogan last week to discuss measures to put a "floor" under the milk and pigmeat markets, with options including using superlevy monies to support the dairy market and increasing the advance of basic payments to 70pc to aid cash flow difficulties.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) had called for the markets issue to be put on the table amid concerns after Irish exporters were left searching to find alternative market outlets over the volume of produce taken off shop shelves in France.

It is understood that some of the market issues will be discussed.

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