EU again criticised for ‘lack of decisive intervention’

There has been renewed criticism for the EU for what has been called its “lack of urgent and decisive Covid-19 intervention” for the agriculture sector.

Edmond Phelan, the president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), claimed that: “There is nowhere near enough urgency to deal with the massive economic disruption caused in particular to the agri-food sector.

“Cattle and sheep farmers are facing extreme price volatility, and the closure of all catering outlets across Europe is having a major impact on farm-gate price,” he highlighted.

Phelan called on the EU to provide “an urgent package” to support farmers.

“The EU has been far too slow in its response and this is having devastating consequences within the farming sector. We need action and we need it now,” he stressed.

The ICSA president added: “Many farmers are beginning to panic amid demands for bills to be paid to merchants and contractors. The last thing we need is farmers selling livestock too cheaply because they are under too much pressure on cash-flow as this will only exacerbate the problem.

“Meanwhile, the Government supports such as the €350/week payment or the wage subsidy do not work in general for farmers,” Phelan said.

The ‘key elements’ of what the ICSA is seeking from Europe include:

  • Market stabilisation support where specific markets have been badly hit for products, such as beef and lamb;
  • Additional direct income support;
  • Interest-free loans targeted at smaller, low-income farmers to assist with cash-flow.

Phelan also levelled criticism on European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for, as he described it, “putting the emphasis on keeping food affordable for consumers”.

“Cattle and sheep farmers are rapidly coming to the conclusion that they can’t afford to produce food anymore… It is insane to expect that farmers can stay going while year after year farm-gate price declines and all of the input costs go up,” he outlined.

The situation is rapidly coming to a head now with Covid-19 causing further price pressures which are utterly unsustainable.

Concluding, Phelan argued that: “It is time for the European Central Bank (ECB) to make the necessary funds available to provide for an Extraordinary Agricultural Programme, to include a robust crisis fund, and the Taoiseach [Leo Varadkar] urgently needs to push for this as soon as possible.”