Producers ‘must now be given an emergency financial lifeline’

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed must include the “primary producers of beef and lamb” as part of a rescue package for Irish agriculture in response to Covid-19, according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).

Speaking ahead of the minister’s meeting with the European Agrifish Council video exchange, set to be held tomorrow, Wednesday, March 26, the INHFA highlighted that these “primary producers” are the country’s suckler cow herds and breeding ewe flocks.

Commenting, INHFA president Colm O’Donnell said: “Emergency procedures must be triggered by the European Commission, supported by both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

Those legislative bodies need to adopt delegated acts in order to react effectively and efficiently against the threat of market disturbance which, is now impacting on all farm enterprises.

O’Donnell continued, adding that the European Commission must unlock its agricultural crisis reserve and use its Common Market Organisation (CMO) Regulation “to draft urgency procedures without delay”.

The president highlighted that the first link in the food supply chain is the primary producer, whether it be milk and cheese from the dairy sector, beef from suckler cows or lamb from Irish flocks.

“All must be treated fairly and must now be given an emergency financial lifeline which must be diverted immediately back to the source of production and include all types of enterprise,” he stressed.

Under Article 219 of EU regulation 1308/2013, the commission is empowered to utilise emergency procedures which can provide direct support to farmers without the conditionality that accompanied the €100 million Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM).

The BEAM scheme saw an underspend of almost a quarter of the allocation, “with €24 million sent back to Brussels”, O’Donnell said.