EU Covid-19 rescue package ‘doesn’t go far enough’ for farmers

The EU’s Covid-19 rescue package, which was announced yesterday, Thursday, April 9, “does not go far enough” for farmers, one farm organisation has said.

Edmond Phelan, the president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), said that, while the package is welcome, it leaves a “a lot of unanswered questions” where agriculture is concerned.

“It is very far from clear how this will help the beleaguered farm sector who, despite working night and day to keep food on the shelves, are experiencing price falls and desperate cash-flow difficulties,” Phelan said.

Key elements of the deal, including €100 million support to keep workers employed and EIB [European Investment Bank] support for the corporate sector do not answer the call for an extraordinary agricultural programme.

“Moreover, much of the funding is in the form of loans which, although part of the solution, do not fully address the extent of the calamity visited in many sectors of the economy,” the ICSA president argued.

He said that the ICSA would be calling on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to “press very hard” in coming days for an additional recovery fund for the farming sector.

“Food security in the EU in the longer term is at risk unless we do something now to support farmers across Europe who are carrying all the impact of disruption to food markets,” Phelan remarked.

In particular, the longer restaurants and other catering outlets are closed, the more severe the impact on farming.

Phelan added that it was “now urgent” that a temporary ban be imposed on food imports from outside the EU.

“There is no need to be importing meat and dairy products at a time when EU producers are told there is no demand for their product. It is absolutely absurd that import quotas remain open at low tariff rates to encourage food imports which, at this time, are potentially forcing many EU farmers to the wall,” he concluded.