ICSA president Edmond Phelan has castigated the lack of decisive intervention by the EU in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “There is nowhere near enough urgency to deal with the massive economic disruption caused in particular to the agri-food sector. Cattle and sheep farmers are facing extreme price volatility and the closure of all catering outlets across Europe is having a major impact on farm gate price.”
Mr Phelan reiterated the association’s demand for an urgent package of supports for farmers. “The EU have been far too slow in their response and this is having devastating consequences within the farming sector. We need action and we need it now,” he said.
“Many farmers are beginning to panic amid demands for bills to be paid to merchants and contractors. The last thing we need is farmers selling livestock too cheaply because they are under too much pressure on cash flow as this will only exacerbate the problem. Meanwhile, the Government supports such as the €350 per week payment or the wage subsidy do not work in general for farmers.”
ICSA is demanding that the EU needs to step up with an Extraordinary Agricultural Programme. The key elements should include:
- Market stabilisation support where specific markets have been badly hit for products such as beef and lamb.
- Additional direct income support.
- Interest free loans targeted at smaller, low income farmers to assist with cash flow.
Mr Phelan was also critical of EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen for putting the emphasis on keeping food affordable for consumers at a time when cattle and sheep farmers are rapidly coming to the conclusion that they can’t afford to produce food any more.
“It is insane to expect that farmers can stay going while year after year farm gate price declines and all of the input costs go up. The situation is rapidly coming to a head now with Covid-19 causing further price pressures which are utterly unsustainable.”
“It is time for the European Central Bank (ECB) to make the necessary funds available to provide for an Extraordinary Agricultural Programme, to include a robust crisis fund, and the Taoiseach urgently needs to push for this as soon as possible.”