Agricultural Minister Simon Coveney has said that he does not want the Irish beef industry to become a by-product of the dairy sector. Speaking on Morning Ireland today he added that further consideration will be given to finding ways of supporting suckler beef farmers moving forward. In so doing, he did not rule out a introducing a top up to the €60 suckler cow headage payment, which was brought In courtesy of the last budget. The Minister continued:

“My job is to spend public money in the most effective way possible. Government is currently working through the detail of the next Rural Development Programme and my aim is to use this in ways that will best meet the needs of the most vulnerable sectors within Irish agriculture.”

Simon Coveney also pointed out that agriculture and food represent the most important sector within the economy as whole.

“The sector has managed to grow significantly over the past number of years and it is primed for further growth in the future. This will mean more jobs for the economy as a whole.”

The Minister repudiated any suggestion that farm incomes are at perilously low levels.

“Incomes within agriculture grew by 3% in 2013. And wqe are likely to see a further jump in profitability this year,” he stressed.

“Dairy farmgate returns are at record levels and beef prices in Ireland are currently some 6% above the EU average. Traditionally, Irish farmgate beef returns would have been well below this level. The days of Irish farmers producing cheap food are over. Irish food products are now recognised as ‘premium brand’ throughout Europe and beyond.”

But Simon Coveney was at pains to point out that Irish agriculture will need to be adequately supported over the coming years.

“That was why getting g a suitable CAP deal put in place last year was so important. The Common Agricultural Policy will put 12 billion Euros into the Irish economy over the next seven years. This is a more than significant sum of money, that will be used to maintain rural communities the length and breadth of Ireland.