EU agri-food sector ‘needs introduction of market disruption measures’

Stakeholders should recognise that there have been serious market disruptions across the EU arising from the coronavirus – and policy measures at EU level will be required to allow producers to adjust to the current market uncertainties, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

This follows discussions with with farm organisations across the EU in recent days, the association said.

Commenting on the matter, ICMSA president Pat McCormack said: “We can start from the point where there has been a surge in sales at retail level in recent weeks and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future – if not at the very high levels seen last week.

Food service has seen a dramatic drop and, again, the period of recovery at this stage remains uncertain.

Highlighting the importance of food security, and the essential role of farmers in this, the president added:

“Certain markets and companies – particularly those supplying food service – have taken a hit and it is essential at this stage that the EU intervenes to ensure that the farmers and processors are supported in order to maintain this critical production going forward.”

To support the agriculture and food sectors, the ICMSA is proposing a number of measures including:
  • Food products and materials associated with food production should be considered ‘essential good’ under the commission’s proposed ‘green lanes’ which priority to certain products in freight transport;
  • Private Storage Aid (PSA) schemes should be made available for dairy and other products to allow the strategic management of food stocks from the forthcoming peak production period;
  • The rules in relation to farm schemes, including inspection requirements, will have to be reviewed and simplified to ensure that payments are made to all farmers at the specified time and that the maximum advances allowable are made;
  • Low-interest loans should be made available through the European Investment Bank to secure the long-term sustainability of farms and food processing businesses;
  • The European Commission must ensure that there is no opportunistic cutting of farmers’ prices by unscrupulous processors or traders of food produce – and decisive action should be taken if such price cutting takes place.

“The EU is facing a major health crisis and there can be no adequate response without all links in the food-supply chain playing their role and take their responsibilities seriously,” McCormack said.

Farmers are ready right now and all we need is the EU to implement simple and specific measures aimed at ensuring that farmers can continue to deliver high-quality food to EU and global consumers through this fraught period.

ICMSA welcomes the Croatian EU Presidency proposal for a joint approach by agriculture council ministers on this matter.

“It would be important that Ireland supports such an initiative and that these kind of specific measures are introduced without delay to ensure stability in the agri-food sector,” McCormack concluded.