New minister ‘must deliver on supply chain transparency’ among key priorities

The newly appointed Minister for Agriculture and Marine Barry Cowen’s key priorities must be “to deliver total transparency” in the food supply chain – as well as an environment scheme with sufficient resources, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

ICSA president Edmond Phelan congratulated Minister Cowen on his appointment as minister over the weekend.

Commenting on the appointment, Phelan said: “The ICSA looks forward to forging a strong working relationship with Minister Cowen with a focus on delivering economic sustainability to cattle and sheep farmers along with environmental benefits to all.

First and foremost, the minister must deliver total transparency in the food chain and ensure that neither processor nor retailer can abuse their dominant positions.

“To this end the ICSA is insisting the promised food ombudsman is installed without delay.

“Farmers are continuously striving to be more efficient but every incremental gain in efficiency is stolen by an unregulated processing and retailing sector driving down farmgate price – and this must change.”

Turning to the topic of environmental schemes, Phelan highlighted that a new scheme similar to the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) is also a must, adding:

“The ICSA is calling for a trebling of the current GLAS [Green Glow-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme] budget to facilitate such a scheme, given the numbers of farmers it would hope to attract.

An annual budget of €750 million, or three times the current GLAS budget, would be the minimum required. It is no longer acceptable to expect farmers to do more on climate change without the resources to do so.

The president also asserted that a suckler-based application for EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) is “vital for the survival of that sector”.

“Suckler beef must be developed and promoted as a special high-value product, and the ICSA will be vigorously opposing the inclusion of all beef in the pursuit of such a protected status.”

Turning to the sheep sector, Phelan added: “A new and improved Sheep Welfare Scheme must also be a top of the agenda for the minister.

The scheme is coming to an end and we must have something in place to replace it. However, it is clear the funding will need to be significantly increased from 2021 onwards.

“The sheep sector has not been supported enough and viability within the sector has become a major issue and can no longer be ignored,” the president concluded.