The Committee were discussing an Irish Farmers Association (IFA)-commissioned report on the importance of the cattle and sheep sectors to the Irish economy. Report author and University College Dublin Professor of Agriculture and Food Economics Alan Renwick was before the committee, along with IFA president John Bryan.
Chairman of the committee deputy Andrew Doyle TD said: “This afternoon’s meeting was a valuable opportunity to assess the current economic impact of the drystock sectors on the Irish economy. The sectors are vital to sustaining 100,000 full-time jobs, spread widely throughout the country. It was also pointed out that there was a considerable multiplier effect in the rural economy from the industry. The notion of a tipping point was raised by Prof Renwick, who argued that the sectors might be rendered un-viable in many areas of the country without the required supports. Pointing to the danger of the multiplier effect working in reverse, it was pointed out that a 25 and 20 per cent fall in cattle and sheep numbers could amount to jobs losses in the tens of thousands.
“Given that drystock sector accounts for a similar output as the dairy sector, its economic importance cannot be overstated. Sustaining and developing the sector into the future must be based on a model which secures a reasonable income for the primary producer. The concerns of this report therefore, should flow into policy making at the highest levels, including the relevant Food Harvest implementation group.
“With growing world demand for food, coupled with Ireland’s ambitious Food Harvest 2020 targets, it was pointed out that targeted programmes were required help secure the sectors into the future.It is an imperative that the sector is nurtured to become as productive and viable as possible. ”
Meanwhile Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív walked out midway of the hearing in protest. The Galway West deputy was asking if taking into account coupled subsidised and sale prices, was the farmer who had extra stock and producing more actually making a profit. He claimed his question to Prof Renwick was sidelined by the IFA president and walked out in protest.
Speaking afterwards, Deputy Ó Cuív said: “I had to walk out in protest. Taking into account coupled subsidies and prices, I was asking the professor with increased levels of stock and production, intensive farming, was the farmer in fact loosing money. The IFA president would not allow him [the professor] to answer. It was an insult to my intelligence and an insult to farmers. Farmers need to make a profit from active farming, not make a loss with increased production.”