Agriculture priorities ‘all wrong’ when it comes to funding allocations – Carthy

Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Matt Carthy feels that the government’s agriculture priorities are “all wrong” as the food processing sector is set to receive €100 million.

Yesterday evening (Tuesday, January 12), Minister Simon Coveney announced that Ireland is to get €1.05 billion under the EU’s Brexit Adjustment Reserve – which amounts to 25% of the fund that will be available this year.

It is now up to the Irish government to justify that money by putting a package together – “which certainly all isn’t going to be allocated to agriculture or fishing, but both agriculture and the agri-food industry will certainly be part of that plan I suspect”.

However, last month, the government confirmed that a new €100 million scheme for the food processing sector, managed by Enterprise Ireland, would open for applications in January.

TD for Cavan-Monaghan Matt Carthy has, meanwhile, called on the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to clarify what measures will be made available to farmers affected by the fallout from Brexit.

‘No obligation on meat factories to act in a fairer manner’

“That the only agriculture funding announced post-Brexit has been a €100 million package to meat factories and other processors is very telling of the government’s misplaced priorities,” he said.

According to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, the scheme will be made available “to allow businesses invest in new technology and new products, making the sector stronger and more resilient”.

“Unfortunately, cabinet failed to use the opportunity of that funding to implement necessary conditions on recipients,” deputy Carthy claims.

What applicants must do in order to be eligible for funding has been outlined by the government as the following: “demonstrate that the investment underpins sustainable food production, at both farm and processor level; and contribute to balanced, sustainable regional development”.

“There will be no obligation on the meat factories to improve the working conditions in plants; there will be no obligation to undo the corporate structures of the factories,” the deputy continued.

‘A wait and see approach’

“Crucially, there will be no obligation on meat factories to act in a fairer manner with the source of their product – Ireland’s family farmers.

“Yet, while this funding has been made available for the processing sector, there have been no new measures announced post-Brexit for farmers.

“It appears that the government [has] adopted a wait and see approach to the most important aspect of food production.

As the full cost and impact of Brexit becomes apparent, it is imperative that the minister outlines exactly what supports he intends to make available to farmers – particularly those vulnerable sectors, such as suckler beef farmers.

“The minister needs to make certain that 2021 is the year in which our family farmers are prioritised.

“Special funding schemes for the meat processing industry that are not contingent on the much-needed reforms of that sector will simply reinforce the view that the government’s agriculture priorities are all wrong.

“Minister McConalogue can begin by outlining what Brexit supports will be available to farmers in the time ahead.”