Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

We’re depending on agriculture to get us out of this mess – Minister Coveney

AGRICULTURE Minister Simon Coveney today claimed Ireland's best hope for recovery depended on the agriculture sector's performance in increasing exports.

And he stressed that the trend in farming was very positive as sales abroad were set to increase by 25pc between this year and next.

This year alone the sector had grown by 12pc to a record level of €8.9bn and with the international market growing exponentially, Ireland's exports were now set to jump by 50pc by 2020, he added.

"I'm lucky to be coming in when fantastic opportunities are presenting themselves to the industry. I need to manage that the best I can and then exploit the growth potential," he said.

"My aim is to grow the industry and keep people on the land in disadvantaged, hillside and commonage areas," he emphasised.

Mr Coveney said people who had predicted the demise of support payments through the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) were proven wrong and he said that those payments would be frozen at 2013 prices, although he accepted they would not be indexed linked beyond that.

He said he had been very vocal in putting the Irish case for maintaining CAP payments to the EU Commission. "I've already met the Commissioner and his cabinet to discuss particular concerns," he said.

The Minister said Ireland would have assumed the Euro presidency by the time the CAP deal would be completed in 2013 and it was in everyone's interest that the deal was done in 15 months time.

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"Farmers must accept that there would be some changes - some of them for the good. He pointed out that New Zealand had benefitted in the dairy sector because EU farmers were hit by quotas but these restriction would be lifted in 2015, opening up further opportunities for Irish farmers to expand in this area.

IFA President John Bryan said it was gratifying to see young people being attracted back into the agriculture sector. "There is a good buzz in farming and a confidence about it that has not been there in recent times," he added.

However the IFA leader warned that despite the upturn most farmers still earned less than €20,000 a year. Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, he said it was vital that current reformsin CAP didn't interfere with supports which meant that Irish people were able to stay on the land.

Farmers across Europe had higher costs to contend with and also faced higher environmental and welfare standards which to remain viable need compensation from CAP.

If the financial aid continued, it would open up the opportunity for Ireland to increase its food production at a time when most areas of the world experienced populations growth and needed more food.

"Support from the EU is the difference between farmers surviving and providing a platform to create new opportunities," he explained.

Mr Bryan said that the evidence will be in Athy over the next three days when over 180,000 people will visit the National Ploughing Championhsips, farmers will spend the money they earn in their own community, giving local economies a major boost.

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