As speculation mounts that Simon Coveney will be given a new job in the upcoming cabinet re-shuffle, and that Andrew Doyle, the current Chairman of the Dáil’s Agriculture Committee, will take his place in Kildare Street, our farming organisations are remaining very tight lipped on the subject – well almost!

ICSA Chief Executive Eddie Punch is questioning whether Simon Coveney would ever want to leave his current position. “Simon Coveney has succeeded in raising the profile of agriculture and food within government,” he told Agriland.

“Specifically, he has endeavoured to highlight the fact that agriculture and food combined constitute an important economic driver for this country. The days are gone when a job in Kildare Street was seen as a backward step in the context of a career in politics.”

Mr Punch went on to point out that should Simon Coveney be replaced the new Minister for Agriculture must ensure that the small matter of the Beef Forum and the momentum behind the work of this grouping is maintained.

“This week’s farm income estimates from Teagasc has highlighted, once again, the parlous economic state of Ireland’s suckler beef and sheep producers,” he stressed.

“These figures confirm that the average suckler farmer is currently earning a mere €188 per week. It is exactly the same level of income as that received by a person on benefits.  This situation is not sustainable and is a nettle which our farm minister, whoever is in the job, must grasp.”

Eddie Punch went on to highlight the growing differential in the incomes generated by Irish dairy farmers, compared with their beef and sheep counterparts.

“The ratio used to be three to one, in favour of milk producers: now the figure is four and a half to one,” he commented.

“This disparity is further evidence of just how non-sustainable livestock farming in Ireland is at the present time. And this is another core challenge for the farm minister moving forward!”