EU member states today, Thursday, June 20, agreed to a proposal from the European Commission to make €50 million available to Irish beef farmers – with the commission giving the Irish Government until the end of July to design the required criteria.

This can be matched by national funds to reach a maximum of €100 million, the proposal outlines.

According to the commission, the establishment of the fund reflects Europe’s recognition of the particular challenges facing the Irish beef and veal sector due to market uncertainty and an unprecedented and sustained period of low prices.

Once formally adopted by the commission early next month, the Irish authorities will have until the end of July to design the criteria within a set framework for granting the aid.

They must avoid the distortion of competition when distributing it.

The commission has said that one of the key objectives should be to ensure the beef and veal sector’s long-term viability; for example, through the development of new markets, the implementation of quality schemes, or the improvement of farmers’ environmental sustainability.

“This exceptional measure, provided under the Common Market Organisation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), will offer support to the Irish farmers affected,” the commission said in a statement.

Due to the drop in prices, with a fall in margins estimated at 11% to 19% in the past year for the beef and veal sector, the Irish authorities have calculated that beef farmers have lost just over €100 million.

Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan said:

“This fund is a recognition by the European Commission of the particular difficulties experienced by Irish beef farmers arising from significant price falls and market uncertainty.

“The money made available by the EU, which may be matched by the Irish Government, will protect a fragile but essential agricultural sector.

Moreover, it will provide direct support to hard-hit farmers and will ensure the long-term viability of the Irish beef sector.

“The commission will continue to monitor closely the overall market situation,” the commissioner concluded.