‘Government measures must secure entire food supply chain’ – ICOS

Preserving the agri-food supply chain is “vital” at the present time, due to the escalating “national public health emergency”, according to the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS).

Jerry Long, the president of ICOS, was speaking after a board meeting held by conference call yesterday, Monday, March 23.

“There are a huge number of vital services required to keep our safe food production system running; we need feed; fertiliser; fuel; veterinary supplies; animal movement; milk recording; artificial insemination; milking machine service and repair; hardware supplies; and so on,” Long stressed.

Our farming businesses are quite complex operations now, and the authorities must recognise that fact when we inevitably move towards tighter movement restrictions.

“Co-op stores moving to a call and collect model; increased emphasis on delivery direct-to-farm; and all farmer communications moving towards phone and email only, demonstrate that our supply chain is one of the tightest in the economy,” he highlighted.

Long noted: “We can and must preserve [the supply chain] intact so that we can continue to feed the population.”

The ICOS president also pointed out that in the UK and New Zealand – which have both declared general lockdowns in their economies – the agri-food supply chain has been recognised as an important part of the economies there, with key services being maintained.

Long said that he had been given a “strong mandate” by dairy and agri co-ops to emphasise to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed that the sector “can and will continue to produce top-quality safe food”.

The ICOS president added that the agri-sector will also protect the health of staff, farmers and the public.

Long will be speaking to Minister Creed on a conference call later this afternoon, Tuesday, March 24, where he will call on the minister to raise the issue of private storage aid for dairy products at a video conference of EU agriculture ministers tomorrow.

The private storage aid is to “allow the sector to put aside the product that is now surplus, following the near collapse of the food service industry”.

ICOS is also calling for an Export Credit Guarantee scheme to counteract the market uncertainty resulting from low oil prices.

Concluding, Long “emphasised the importance of implementing emergency supports for the beef sector, suggesting that intervention at a realistic price level should be instigated immediately to prevent a price collapse”.