Opinion

What are the factories paying for Easter lamb this year?

Whatever the plants are paying for Easter lamb this year, I can say with total confidence that it will not be good enough.

This has nothing at all to do with the actual quotes from the plants, but rather it is based on the reality that farmer returns continue to remain in the doldrums, right across the board.

It’s a fact that farmgate food prices have not kept up with inflation for the past 30 years.

If they had, dairy farmers would be receiving 60c/L for their milk right now. And all the other commodities have been affected in a similar manner.

In the meantime, all of the input costs incurred by farmers have risen in line with inflation – and possibly beyond.

The myth that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has compensated farmers for producing cheap food is just that. And the likelihood is that the next review of the CAP will bring even greater pressure on farm support levels.

Each country in the EU is supposed to ensure that workers receive a minimum wage. However, it’s more than obvious that the incomes generated by farmers are well below that of the guaranteed salary that all workers must receive when they enter into employment.

In part, this is due to the long hours put in by farmers. But this is a matter which they have no choice in.

Cows must be milked twice daily and all stock must be fed every day of the year.

And then there are the calving and lambing seasons to be taken account of. The spring months see many Irish sheep, dairy and suckler farmers hardly getting into bed because of their need to attend ewes and cows when they give birth.

It really is time the EU gave full recognition of the tremendous commitment put in by farmers in producing the food we all need.

And, to be honest, the continuing adherence to a cheap food policy by the key decision makers within Europe is an insult to all those involved within production agriculture.

It totally devalues the commitment and investment made by farmers of all types. It’s a case of the primary producer taking all of the risks but getting very few of the rewards.