The president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has rejected the findings of a report published by the EU Commission that shows that the EU’s policy on trade deals has benefitted its indigenous farming and agri-food sector.

The commission’s report states that EU policy will result in substantial increases in EU agri-food exports, with more limited increases in imports creating a positive trade balance overall.
Also Read: EU Commission finds positive impact of trade deals on agri-food sector

The report quotes the commission’s executive vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis, as saying that the EU “has always stood for open and fair trade which has enormously benefitted our economy, including agricultural producers”.

It is this conclusion that will most astonish farmers, according to ICMSA president Pat McCormack.

“Mr. Dombrovskis must be aware of the fact that the number of family farms in the EU has declined – and is still declining – year on year,” McCormack said.

If what he said was true; if EU trade policy was benefitting agricultural producers, then that would be reflected in the numbers of EU citizens farming or otherwise engaged in primary food production, but those people are still leaving the sector every year.

“They’re showing what they think of the EU’s attitude to EU farming by leaving the sector. That’s the reality and every scrap of data for 25 years shows that that’s the case,” he added.

“Possibly Mr. Dombrovskis means that the EU trade policy is beneficial for the multinational food processors based within the EU, and that may very well be true, but it most certainly doesn’t benefit the farmers in all the member states who are struggling to make a reasonable living.”

Lack of climate effects

McCormack is critical of the fact that the report did not incorporate environmental or climate effects, describing their non-inclusion as “a disqualifying omission”.

“The illogical and pointless nature of this report can best be illustrated by the fact that environmental and climate change measures – the very things that the EU keeps telling us will be the most important considerations in forming policy now and into the future – form no part of the report and specifically were not taken into account when it was being assembled.

Effectively that makes the projections and predictions on the EU side of the comparison questionable at best and meaningless at worst. If EU farming and agri-food is going to be predicated on the transition to lower emissions farming and food production then what good are any scenarios out to 2030 that take no account of that basis?

The ICMSA chief said that the reason why environmental or climate measures couldn’t be incorporated into the commission’s report, is that it would “illustrate very vividly the fact that most of the other entities with which the EU has FTAs [Free Trade Agreements] or trade agreements” don’t have anything “resembling similar environmental standards or climate mitigation measures”.