Ongoing support through the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is “essential” to help farmers maintain their resilience as they respond to unstable markets, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has said.

Farmers continue to face uncertain times with fluctuations in prices both for inputs and for commodities which are “very challenging” for farmers to manage, the minister said.

The difficulties faced in the tillage and horticulture sectors have been highlighted in particular by the minister at a meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council today (Tuesday, May 30).

“In Ireland, while all sectors have their issues, we are facing particularly stark challenges in the tillage and horticulture sectors.  

“Energy costs are having a heavy impact on the horticulture sector, and prices obtained on markets do not compensate for those increases. Tillage farmers have faced huge fluctuations in prices.  

“While prices had previously compensated for increased costs, this is not the case now. Input costs for the 2023 growing season are up to 62% higher than in 2021,” the minister told the council.

EU-Australia trade

The latest developments in negotiations on the free trade agreement between the EU and Australia in relation to market access for agricultural products will be discussed at today’s meeting.

Ireland has consistently raised concerns regarding the possible granting of additional market access for sensitive agriculture products, the minister, who stressed that any such access must not undermine EU producers, said.

“Regarding these sensitive agriculture products, any offer must fully take account of the cumulative impact of all market access concessions that have been made in European Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to date.  

“It must also consider the further impact of the substantial market access for beef and sheepmeat that has been secured by Australia and New Zealand in their FTAs with the UK.

“We must avoid further negative impacts on European markets,” Minister McConalogue commented ahead of today’s discussion.

EU Agri-Fish Council

The council meeting will also include a discussion on the situation of the agriculture sector in Ukraine which will be held in the presence of the Ukrainian Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food, Mykola Solskyi.

The importance of EU Solidarity Lanes and the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative has been stressed by the minister, who said he believes they will be vital in supporting agriculture in Ukraine in the shorter and longer term.

Black Sea Grain Initiative
Source: Ukraine’s Minister for Infrastructure, Oleksandr Kubrakov Twitter

Voicing continuing support for farmer families as well as support for Ukraine ahead of the discussion, Minister McConalogue said:

“Ireland has been unequivocal and steadfast in our support for the people and government of Ukraine following Russia’s illegal invasion, including through the provision of humanitarian and non-lethal military assistance and the welcoming of displaced Ukrainian citizens.”

Discussions by the council today also include the issue of food safety and food waste around the proposed regulations on packaging and packaging waste, and the marketing of frozen products.

There will also be a discussion on the 5th African Union-EU Agricultural Ministerial Conference which will take place in Rome on June 30, 2023, addressing resilient food systems and sustainable agri-value chains.