Responding to the Agriland interview with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue this week, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), has said that it hopes the minister’s confidence, that all will be right in terms of agriculture, was not misplaced.

President of the association, Pat McCormack said that the “sunny optimism” that ran through the minister’s exchanges, belied the extreme difficulties that the transition to lower emissions and more sustainable farming and food production would involve.

The farming representative added that, it was extremely notable that not once did Minister McConalogue make any reference to consumer prices, or the absolute certainty that ‘syncing’ farming and primary food production with new climate realities, will have to mean a sharp rise in food prices.

ICMSA Pat McCormack and Des Morrison
ICMSA president Pat McCormack and Livestock Committee chair, Des Morrison

ICMSA on food pricing

McCormack said that the complete absence of any official comment on this “indisputable and inevitable” consequence of the policy aimed at making farming and primary food production more environmentally sustainable, had “moved past irritating and was now downright infuriating”.

“ICMSA has repeatedly asked when we can expect to hear a senior government figure – Taoiseach, Tánaiste or indeed the minister – break the news to the Irish consumers that this fundamental and enormously expensive shift to lower emissions is (A) going to have to be paid for by everyone, and (B) is going to mean the speedy end of the ‘cheap food’ policy,” McCormack said.

“Why is there such a reluctance to just point that out? This has moved well past puzzling and it’s becoming very suspicious.

“There is a persistent delusion amongst the Irish public that all the change we’re talking about, and planning, is somehow ‘out there and someone else’s business’ and will happen without their own artificially cheap food prices being affected,” McCormack.

Pushing responsibility

The ICMSA chief said that Minister McConalogue’s interview continued to put the focus on the responsibilities of farmers and the regulatory pressures that will be exerted by government – without regarding how consumers or the retailers are going to contribute.

“Why is the Irish government so afraid of telling Irish consumers – and the retail corporations who completely dominate our food-supply chain – that there’s going to be changes and charges involved in this transition, all the way along the line? Everyone is going to have to pay,” McCormack added.

“At some stage, someone is going to have to break the bad news to the Irish public that food prices are going to go up.

“If people are as committed to the new environmental reality as they keep telling the pollsters they are, then they’ll have no problem accepting that very shortly they are going to have to pay the real economic and environmental costs of the food they consume,” he added.

ICMSA said that this reality will be somewhat of a shock initially because “they have been systematically underpaying for their food for decades”.

“But someone is going to have to pay and the farmers can’t, shouldn’t and won’t any longer. Food inflation is coming back and we’re not doing the public any favours by pretending that that is not the case,” he concluded.