Representatives from the Directorate General for Agriculture (DG AGRI) of the European Commission have been told that Irish farms are “in a desperate situation” due to high fertiliser prices.
The comment was made by Ireland Midlands-Northwest MEP Chris MacManus during a meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture this morning (Wednesday, April 20), at which deputy director general for DG AGRI Michael Scannell was present.
Speaking after the debate, MacManus said: “Irish farmers have been watching the fertiliser markets for the last 12 months, waiting for a time to buy. Many assumed the Covid-19 price inflation would subside in 2022, and therefore they held off purchasing.
“The outbreak of war in Ukraine has unfortunately punished those farmers severely for waiting, and they need immediate support.”
The Sinn Féin MEP said that he had spoke to farmers who are now paying over €900/t for fertiliser that cost around €350/t early last year. Prices are continuing to increase “week-on-week”, MacManus stressed.
“The most obvious scenario is that farmers will use fertiliser more sparingly this year and therefore produce less food, hitting already miniscule profit margins,” he also highlighted.
The MEP called for “all tools” available to alleviate the fertiliser price problem to be mobilised. He called on the commission to work on securing supply from around the world, and for the EU to finalise the removal of anti-dumping duties, echoing the views of Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.
And speaking of the Irish government, MacManus called on it to ensure that the €15 million we are in line to receive from the EU to bolster food security (which can be increased by up to 200% by Irish exchequer funding) will be “sufficiently targeted to assist those farmers who are in the most difficult position”.
“Ireland must also make full use of the state aid flexibilities allowed to boost the level of relief provided to Irish farmers,” he urged.
He also called for a reduction in dependence on nitrogen fertilisers in the medium and long term, through organic alternatives or greater use of red and white clover.
“This crisis we are in is not of our own making…but a failure to act by the European Commission and the Irish government is what will prolong it,” MacManus warned.