Varadkar at Virginia: Irish farmers in ‘perfect storm’

Taoiseach of Ireland Leo Varadkar acknowledged the recent hardship Irish farmers have experienced at today’s Virginia Agricultural Show.

Speaking to AgriLand at the showgrounds, he also outlined how the Government is working to alleviate the challenges facing individual sectors.

“I’m really delighted to be here at the Virginia Fair – one of the best agricultural shows to happen in the country around the year.

Paying tribute to the “enormous community spirit and voluntary effort” involved in running the show, the Taoiseach took note of the Cavan venue.

We are, as you know, in one of the biggest food-producing areas of the country and I’m keen to visit and talk to some of the farming community about some of the difficulties they are facing at the moment.

“You would be aware, of course, that there’s real concerns about the emerging fodder crisis and the shortage of fodder around the country – particularly in the south-east and the south.

“Minster Creed announced today that we had set aside €4.25 million to subsidise the import of fodder, which will help to increase supply and also decisions have been made to bring forward EU payments to help with cash flow as well.

“But, it is a situation that we are monitoring and one that we will continue to work on during the year and through the year,” the Taoiseach said.

‘Perfect storm’

“I think that there can be no doubt that the weather has really impacted on farmers this year – a very cold winter, a very warm summer – and that’s definitely impacted on yields and prices in some cases as well.

When it comes to the other aspects of the perfect storm, let’s wait and see.

Turning to the political aspects of the “storm”, Varadkar said: “We are working really hard when it comes to Brexit negotiations to make sure that we have a new trade agreement that doesn’t impact on farming; that continues to allow us to export food to our nearest neighbour without any restrictions.

“Any changes that happen around CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) won’t come into effect until 2021; that aspect of the storm – if it arises – will be some way away yet and I’m determined to make sure that the CAP budget is protected in the multi-financial framework,” Varadkar added.

Budget 2019

Ahead of Budget 2019, the Taoiseach made it clear that the Government was taking submissions on board, saying: “When it comes to the submission that the IFA has made, as is always the case, we are going to examine it.

Minister Creed, Minister Donohoe and I will take it very seriously over the next couple weeks between now and the budget in six weeks’ time.

“You can be sure that all sorts of organisations all over the country will be making submissions and we will of course take them into account.

But it is never going to be possible to do everything that everyone would like us to do in one year.

Cautioning groups however, Varadkar added: “There is only a certain amount of money and the first priority for the budget has to be to make sure it’s broadly balanced – that we balance the books and reduce the debt.

‘Balancing the books’

“And, if we are heading into any economic turmoil in the years ahead – because of Brexit or anything else – the best way to prepare for that is to make sure that our public finances are in order, so that’s the first priority.

“The second is to make sure that there will be additional funding for infrastructure and public services – like housing, health care, education – which there will be and also to ensure that there’s a tax and welfare package that puts a little bit of money in everyone’s pocket,” the Taoiseach concluded.