‘Our drinks industry is conquering world markets and yet our tillage sector is in crisis’

Despite the success of the Irish drinks industry, the tillage sector in Ireland is struggling significantly, according to Fianna Fail Senator Paul Daly.

Senator Daly was speaking yesterday as the the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine published the report on the ‘Future of the Tillage Sector in Ireland’.

“The greatest success story in the Irish economy – if not the greatest, then one of the greatest success stories in the Irish economy in the last 10 years – is our drinks industry. We’re conquering world markets and at the same time we’re here producing reports of crisis in [the tillage sector].

“We can base our prices on world pricing; it’s a great yardstick to use when it suits. But the other sectors in the industry are going to have to support the agricultural industry.

It’s not always going to be handouts from Agriculture House. There needs to be thinking inside the box here; the drinks industry, in particular, needs to pass on some of what they are making to farmers to help the tillage industry to survive.

“There’s no point beating around the bush. The business is there; the exports are there; and the money is there – but it needs to filter down to source,” he said.

In the report it was outlined that farmers tend to receive less than 5c per pint of beer that a consumer has to hand over €5 for. This equates to the farmer getting less than 1% of the retail price of the pint.

It is also highlighted that the allocation of close to 70% of the overall price of the pint – approximately €3.50 – to various benefactors in the supply chain cannot be accurately determined. The report added that this portion is divided up between wholesalers, brewers and other parties.

According to figures in the report, 51c paid by consumers – 10.25% of the overall price – is put down to excise duty. Meanwhile, €1.51 – 30.15% of the overall price – is attributed to VAT at 23%.

Marketability

Commenting on the drinks industry, Sinn Fein’s agriculture spokesperson Martin Kenny said: “If a bottle of whiskey or beer or any other of the products that the drinks industry is producing had on its label ‘internationally sourced ingredients’, it wouldn’t enhance its marketability.

The marketability of the product is based on the fact that it is an Irish product. That’s really what it is about. It is the same with most of our products.

“The vast majority of European consumers have this image of a green, clean island – where our food is produced to the highest standards.

“If we contaminate that by using ingredients that are from outside Ireland we could jeopardise the possibility of getting a premium price for that product,” he said.

Deputy Kenny argued that Ireland’s agriculture sector must aim to compete at the top rather than indulging in a race to the bottom.

“We should be looking to get the highest price possible and to do that we need to be marketing our produce as being the best in the world,” he concluded.

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