Agri commissioner urged to ‘act now’ by McGuinness

MEPs are urging the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development to “act now” to protect agriculture from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking to AgriLand, Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness stressed the importance of an assessment to determine how the Covid-19 situation would impact on markets for agricultural products.

“I think [Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski] is under pressure to keep his eye on the ball on markets. I think the fear we have. as sometimes happens in a crisis, is that we allow the crisis get too big before we respond,” McGuinness observed.

What we have been saying to the commissioner is act now, do your assessments now.

“Then we need to look and see if our available tools in the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] can address those sort of crises, because this is unprecedented. We haven’t dealt with the closure of an entire market segment [before],” McGuinness stressed.

“We may need to look at other ways to support the market, and I have written to the commissioner [asking him] to look outside the box almost,” she added.

Labour shortages

McGuinness, the First Vice-President of The European Parliament, highlighted another major issue for agriculture across Europe: Labour shortages.

“Clearly, farm labour is critical, so we need to keep [farm workers] safe and well, and we need to get them to work and doing what they have to do,” she outlined.

“This is an issue, as is migrant labour, and we need to keep them going [as well],” McGuinness added.

Reducing dairy production

The MEP went on to say that supporting dairy farmers in reducing production is something that may have to be considered as the situation develops.

“On the dairy side, in the past…[former Agriculture Commissioner] Phil Hogan did bring in a measure to support farmers in reducing production, whether [and when] that would be needed again,” she said.

The last time, it came at the end of our peak production, rather than at the beginning, so we are dealing with very different timelines.

“While we don’t want to cause any undue market scare, the commission has to watch what’s happening very carefully, both internally on the EU market and also on the global markets, to make sure that we are ready to deal with whatever unfolds, because already there are implications,” McGuinness stressed.

Concluding her comments, McGuinness warned: “We need to keep farmers going, because food supply chains and supplies of medical products are the two crucial areas now that need to be sustained. The crisis could last much longer then we would like.”