The country is in the midst of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

How is this unfolding crisis impacting on farming and the agricultural sector?

Sunday, May 3

9:00pm: 19 more Covid-19 deaths; 330 further cases

The authorities reported that 330 new cases of Covid-19 had been notified in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the (adjusted) total number of confirmed cases to 21,506.

19 more people diagnosed with Covid-19 (coronavirus) died here, bringing the (revised) number of deaths linked to the virus to 1,303.

Saturday, May 2

6:00pm: 25 more Covid-19 deaths; 343 further cases

The authorities reported that 343 new cases of Covid-19 had been notified in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the (adjusted) total number of confirmed cases to 21,176.

25 more people diagnosed with Covid-19 (coronavirus) died here, bringing the number of deaths linked to the virus to 1,286.

2:52pm: Farmers to be included in €2 billion credit scheme

Michael Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said that farmers will be included in a €2 billion Credit Guarantee Scheme, as part of a range of measures to support businesses (across the economy) in recovering from Covid-19.

Friday, May 1

6:45pm: Government planning to re-open marts in early June

The Taoiseach – Leo Varadkar – announced a ‘road-map’ charting a way back to economic recovery. As part of this, marts are expected to re-open under phase two of the Government’s plan (involving the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions). Phase two is expected to begin on June 8.

6:40pm: Most existing restrictions to remain in place until May 18

Speaking from Government Buildings, the Taoiseach – Leo Varadkar – said that most of the current (Covid-19) restrictions will remain in place until Monday, May 18.

However, over-70s will be able to leave their homes to exercise – from Tuesday, May 5. On that day, the 2km limit (on the distance that people can travel to exercise) will be extended to 5km.

He noted that, from Monday, May 18, outdoor workers (such as those involved in construction and landscaping) will be able to return to work. DIY and hardware stores will also re-open from that date.

Looking further ahead, he announced plans to “open” the country on a phased basis (encompassing five stages; each three weeks apart) starting on May 18. The final phase is scheduled to commence on August 10.

6:00pm: 34 more Covid-19 deaths; 221 further cases

The authorities reported that 221 new cases of Covid-19 had been notified in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 20,833.

34 more people diagnosed with Covid-19 (coronavirus) died here, bringing the number of deaths linked to the virus to 1,265.

5:18pm: McDonald’s to begin reopening plans with 15 UK outlets

In a statement, McDonald’s UK and Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy confirmed that it will begin its re-opening plans by starting with 15 of its outlets in the UK on May 13 – on a limited, delivery-only capacity.

1:36pm: SIPTU calls for mandatory temperature testing at meat and dairy plants

Trade union SIPTU called for mandatory temperature testing for meat and dairy plant workers, as well as the mandatory provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) at plants.

1:36pm: Rosderra Meats ‘continuing with scaled-down process’

Rosderra Irish Meats confirmed that “a number” of its employees had tested positive for Covid-19 at its plant in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary.

The processor will continue with a “scaled-down process” in the short-term, while affected staff members self-isolate.

1:14pm: Poots announces change to NI calf TB testing requirements

New measures were unveiled to enable more TB herd tests to be “completed safely” on farms in Northern Ireland.

Minister of Agriculture Edwin Poots announced that – from May 4 – calves under 180 days old may be exempt from all bovine TB herd test types, if they cannot be tested in accordance with the latest Public Health Agency guidance on social distancing.

1:02pm: MII confirms presence of Covid-19 cases in ‘some meat plants’

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) confirmed that some meat processing facilities around the country have seen positive cases of Covid-19 among staff.

The processor representative body did not identify the plants concerned, or specify their locations.

8:35am: Dawn Meats temporarily closes plant ‘out of abundance of caution’

Dawn Meats temporarily closed one of its meat plants (in Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath) following the discovery of four confirmed cases of Covid-19.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: “When we became aware of four confirmed cases of Covid-19 amongst workers in Kilbeggan we decided to defer production. The cases reflect less than 2% of staff at the plant – however, the decision was taken out of an abundance of caution whilst we review the situation.”

7:49am: Minister ‘aware of’ 6 Covid-19 clusters in meat plants

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed confirmed that he was aware of six clusters of Covid-19 in beef facilities – five in processing plants and one in a de-boning plant.

He revealed the news in response to a parliamentary question in the Dáil on Thursday, April 30, from Sinn Féin spokesperson for agriculture Brian Stanley.

During a debate on the issue, deputy Stanley said: “I particularly want to raise the issue at Rosderra Meats.” The Laois-Offaly TD claimed that there had been an outbreak of Covid-19 at the company’s Roscrea plant in Co. Tipperary.

Thursday, April 30

6:00pm: 43 more Covid-19 deaths; 359 further cases

The authorities reported that 359 new cases of Covid-19 had been notified in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 20,612.

43 more people diagnosed with Covid-19 (coronavirus) died here, bringing the number of deaths linked to the virus to 1,232.

4:45pm: 2020 World Ploughing Contest postponed until next year

The organisers of the 2020 World Ploughing Contest announced that the event will be postponed until next year, due to Covid-19.

In an online statement, the World Ploughing Organisation said: “The 67th World Ploughing Contest, scheduled to take place in Russia in August, is postponed until June 19-20, 2021.”

4:43pm: MEPs grill commissioner over supports for farming

Numerous members (MEPs) of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee grilled the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Janusz Wojciechowski over Covid-19 supports for farmers.

The European Parliament’s Agriculture (AGRI) Committee met the commissioner on Thursday, April 30, to discuss new market measures to help the agri-sector through the Covid-19 crisis.

3:10pm: Fendt re-opens assembly lines to resume production

Fendt has revealed that production has resumed at a number of its assembly lines in Germany, which had previously been forced to shut-down temporarily due to Covid-19.

AGCO, of which Fendt is part, revealed that its locations in Marktoberdorf, Asbach-Bäumenheim, Waldstetten and Hohenmölsen are re-opening.

2:00pm: Irish MEP and commissioner lock horns over ‘economic patriotism’

Mairead McGuinness, MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament, locked horns with the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, over concerns regarding what she described as “economic patriotism”.

McGuinness urged Commissioner Wojciechowski to ensure that the single market operates without interruption. In particular, she expressed concern about developments in Poland where the government is “naming and shaming” companies importing dairy produce from other EU member states.

12:18pm: UK farm leader aggrieved over ‘domination’ of Irish beef on British shelves

Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), took a swipe at what she described as the “domination” of Irish beef produce on the shelves of the UK’s largest retailers.

She said that there were reports of prime beef stocks in retailers including Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Tesco being predominantly of Irish rather than UK origin.

10:02am: Co-ops ‘cannot expect farmers to take all the pain’ on milk prices

The Dairy Committee chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) – Tom Phelan – urged co-ops to “optimise the April milk price after the severe March cuts, to ensure that farmers are not being asked to take all the pain of challenged dairy markets”.

Wednesday, April 29

10:22pm: Update: Processor applications for private storage aid

It emerged that Irish dairy and meat processors would be able to apply for access to the European Commission’s Aids to Private Storage (APS) schemes – aimed at supporting 330,000t of dairy and meat produce from across the EU bloc – from Thursday, May 7.

9:00pm: 31 more Covid-19 deaths; 376 further cases

The Department of Health reported that 376 new cases of Covid-19 had been notified in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 20,253.

31 more people died here, bringing the number of deaths linked to the virus (including deaths where the link to Covid-19 is deemed as “probable”) to 1,190.

8:06pm: EU dairy chiefs oppose Poland’s ‘name and shame’ stance on imports…

The European Dairy Association (EDA) lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission in response to a decision by the Polish government to “name and shame” plants that were importing dairy produce from abroad.

7:11pm: FF leader raises concerns over Covid-19 cases in meat plants

The Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raised concerns in the Dáil over cases of Covid-19 among staff in meat processing plants.

Speaking in the chamber previously, Martin remarked that some TDs were being contacted over “emerging hot-spots”, including in meat plants.

5:29pm: McGuinness: Transitional CAP will ensure farm payments continue

MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness said that the Agriculture Committee’s move to extend the existing rules for at least one year until the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is agreed is the first step in ensuring continuity of farm payments.

5:28pm: €25 million APS for beef ‘will have negligible impact’ – MII

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) warned that a €25 million Aids to Private Storage (APS) scheme for beef, announced last week by the European Commission, will have “a negligible impact” in dealing with the market effects of Covid-19.

2:57pm: US meat and poultry plants to remain open after Trump order

US President Donald Trump signed an order that will keep meat and poultry processing facilities open during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Commenting on the development, the US secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, said: “I thank President Trump for signing this executive order and recognising the importance of keeping our food supply chain safe, secure and plentiful.”

12:09pm: ‘More than 1 million litres of milk’ discarded in the UK

Interim data from a Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) survey suggested that UK farmers had been forced to discard more than one million litres of milk since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

11:07am: EU and Mexico conclude final element of trade agreement

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU and Mexico concluded the last outstanding element of the negotiation of their new trade agreement.

Under the new EU-Mexico agreement, practically all trade in goods between the EU and Mexico will be duty-free.

10:51am: Gardaí use Covid-19 legislation 76 times since April 8

Gardaí invoked the legislation on Covid-19 restrictions 76 times between April 8 – when the legislation was introduced – and last Saturday, April 25.

In a statement, the Gardaí reiterated that the legislation – which deals with the movement of people, non-essential travel, self-isolation and other issues – is invoked only as a “last resort“.

10:02am: Agri MEPs endorse extension of current CAP rules for up to 2 years

The European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee endorsed a new batch of rules to “ensure a smooth transition” from current EU farm policy rules, expiring at the end of the year, to the future ones.

The new EU law, approved in the committee unanimously by 48 votes in favour on Tuesday, April 28, extends the application of existing Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) rules, which are due to expire at the end of 2020.

Tuesday, April 28

6:00pm: 59 more Covid-19 deaths; 299 further cases

The Department of Health reported that 299 new cases of Covid-19 had been notified in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 19,947.

59 more people died here, bringing the number of deaths linked to the virus (including deaths where the link to Covid-19 is deemed as “probable”) to 1,159.

3:43pm: Over 500,000 egg-producing hens culled in Monaghan

Over 500,000 egg-producing hens were culled in Co. Monaghan since the beginning of an outbreak of bird flu (avian influenza) in the county.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed that impact of the outbreak (which can dramatically reduce a bird’s egg production), combined with the resulting cull and an increase in demand for eggs from retailers (due to Covid-19 restrictions keeping people at home) is causing a notable shortfall in egg supply.

2:54pm: US meat giant on Covid-19: ‘The food supply chain is breaking’

US meat giant Tyson Foods issued a stark warning that “the food supply chain is breaking” there, due to the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The company’s chairman – John Tyson – explained: “The food supply chain is vulnerable. As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain.”

12:50pm: Next EU agriculture ministers meeting postponed…

A scheduled meeting of the EU’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council – which brings together agriculture ministers from each member state – was cancelled.

The update emerged in a reply to a Dáil question from Cavan-Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith. It is understood that the meeting was postponed until mid-May.

12:18pm: Dairy farmers ‘getting fed up’ with ‘constant talking down’ on price

Ger Quain, the dairy chairperson of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), called on the boards of the co-ops to “reflect in great detail” on their coming decisions on milk prices coming into the peak production period.

He said that dairy farmers are becoming increasingly frustrated with what he described as the “constant talking down of prices”.

9:46am: McDonald’s to conduct ‘operational tests’ to ‘explore’ reopening

Multi-national fast food giant McDonald’s is to conduct “some operational tests to explore” what re-opening might look like, as part of plans towards “a potential and limited reopening” in its Irish and UK outlets.

Any potential re-opening would be welcome news for Irish beef farmers, with McDonald’s claiming the title of the largest buyer of Irish beef by volume every year.

8:51am: FSAI to host free online info event for small food businesses

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) announced a plan to host a free, informal online event for small food businesses to brush up on the basics of food safety.

This will be the first of a series dubbed ‘Breakfast Bites’.

Monday, April 27

10:27pm: Liffey Meats responds to ‘grossly inaccurate’ social media claims

Meat processor Liffey Meats issued a response to a post on social media that suggested staff at its plant at Ballyjamesduff in Co. Cavan had Covid-19 symptoms.

In a statement, the processor said claims “that 160 employees of the plant are symptomatic of coronavirus” were “grossly inaccurate and false”.

6:35pm: 18 more Covid-19 linked deaths; 386 more cases

The Department of Health reported that 386 new cases of Covid-19 had been notified in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 19,648.

18 more people (who were diagnosed with Covid-19) died here, bringing the number of deaths from the virus (including deaths where the link to Covid-19 is deemed as “probable”) to 1,102.

3:54pm: Milk Price Tracker 2020: Updated…

The latest Milk Price Tracker – brought to you by AgriLand and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) – detailed milk prices from the most significant Irish dairy co-ops for the month of March.

2:50pm: Operation Fanacht to continue this week with 2,500 Gardaí

An Garda Síochána announced the continuation of its major operation to ensure public compliance with the travel restrictions introduced as part of Covid-19 public health guidelines.

Operation Fanacht, as it’s called, will run from 7:00am on Tuesday, April 28, until the end of the May bank holiday weekend (on Monday night, May 4).

1:16pm: 2020 Balmoral Show cancelled (following previous postponement)

The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society announced it will cancel this year’s Balmoral Show, as coronavirus (Covid-19) numbers continue to rise in Northern Ireland.

The show was initially due to take place on May 13-16, but was postponed on March 16 after the coronavirus pandemic escalated. Tentative plans were then put in place to instead run the show from Wednesday to Saturday, August 19-22. However, this year’s event has now been cancelled.

11:58am: US ‘dangerously close’ to meat shortages as plants close

Meat processing and packing plant closures are leaving the US “dangerously close” to meat shortages as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, according to a report in news outlet Bloomberg.

11:11am: Donegal food-packaging plant turns its hand to PPE production 

A food-packaging factory in Co. Donegal tweaked its facilities to join in the effort to produce personal protection equipment (PPE) for front-line workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It aims to churn out up to 10 million face shields per week over the coming weeks.

Also Read: Latest coronavirus updates for farmers…as they happen (April week 4)

To see farming-related (Covid-19) updates and developments from April 20 until April 26, 2020, click on this link.