The Minister for Agriculture and the Government should play fair in the distribution of any financial supports to Ireland’s farmers, MEP Marian Harkin has said.

The Independent MEP said the Government should recognise the huge export value of Ireland’s livestock sector.

Harkin said that while the decision of Minister Simon Coveney to make a flat rate payment of €1,350 to dairy farmers, to compensate for temporary reduced incomes, was welcome.

“But it raised the issue of why similar payments were not considered for non-dairy farmers whose incomes were far lower and more subject to market fluctuations,” she said.

This was stated by independent MEP Marian Harkin when she questioned the relative strength of the influence of dairy farmers in the European Union compared with that beef and sheep producers.

“Nobody can begrudge the payment to Ireland’s 18,000 dairy farmers but other livestock producers who number over 100,000 must wonder what it takes to have their low incomes better recognised in national and EU policies.

Repeated Teagasc farm incomes studies underlined the ongoing disparity between the incomes of dairy and livestock farmers.

“In its latest forecast of prospects for farming in 2016, Teagasc indicates an increase in milk prices and a reduction in beef returns for the coming year which, once again, indicates the income pressure on livestock producers,” Harkin said.

Furthermore, Harkin said that we have the situation where there is a significant underspend of €17m for 2015 alone, in the Beef Genomics Scheme which reflects the requirements and complexity of the Scheme”, she said.

The Belgian government had introduced a stabilisation mechanism to mitigate the impact of price volatility while the French had also introduced a package of measures to assist livestock farmers whose incomes had plummeted, she said.