Opinion

EU’s €500m package must deliver structural changes to supply chain

The measures announced by the European Commission to help farmers across the EU are to be welcomed.

The outcomes of the ‘emergency’ meeting of European Ministers which it took, in fact, over a month to convene, reflected the dire need for proactive action to be taken to help alleviate farming issues – mainly those in the dairy sector – across the EU.

While the advancement of the direct payments will result in a cash injection into farmers’ pockets, it’s a short-term measure that falls well short of providing any solution to the root of the problems.

The dairy sector has been badly hit, coincidently since the removal of EU milk quotas and the increase in production that has been key on many Irish dairy farms this year.

It’s been a harsh slap in the face for dairy farmers in the first year of real freedom to farm.

The volatility will swing in the other direction and we can expect a pickup in dairy prices, probably mid 2016, and the dairy sector will, once again, be the envy of other farming sectors.

However, the volatility of milk prices is hitting farmers the hardest. And it’s a reflection of the dysfunction of the wider agri-food supply chain – producers are the weakest link and it’s about time the powers that be in the EU did something to rectify this.

The supply chain from farmer to consumer has long been broken, as the processors and retailers become stronger and stronger.

The power held within the EU food supply chain needs to be addressed and if Europe doesn’t do so now the farmer will continue to be reliant on hand outs and piece meal efforts to address what is a fundamental problem for the industry.

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