The EU Commission decided to suspend private storage aid for pigmeat on January 26th, following applications from eighteen Member States to put around 90,000 tonnes into cold storage.
The market instrument to take pigmeat off the market in a bid to ease price pressure was activated on January 4th. At the time of going to press, Germany accounted for nearly 30% (26,137 tonnes) of pigmeat receiving private storage aid, surpassing Spain which applied for just over 21% (19,303t) of total intake.
In the period since the measure entered into force on January 4th, just under 90,000 tonnes of pigmeat has been placed under the scheme. Eighteen Member States notified their submitted quantities, with surprisingly low levels of take-up by operators in key producing countries such as France (2 344t) and Belgium (1 095t).
Similarly, Irish operators put only 1 392t of pigmeat into cold storage, at a time when the country’s pigmeat prices have reached a low of around €135 per 100kg. The Commission moved to suspend the aid for private storage as figures surpassed expectations in the three weeks the option was up and running. ‘The instrument must not distort the market, as the 90 000t of meat will be released from storage in five months … we need to avoid speculation on the market at all costs,’ Brussels officials stated.
Meanwhile, the EU’s farm lobby COPA-COGECA – of which the IFA and the Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society are members – has called on Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to step up ‘technical negotiations’ with Moscow on EU export certificates and veterinary rules to allow the re-entry of pork fat, lard and offal, for which the sector has been unable to find equivalent alternative markets.
Agriculture has so far failed to keep pace with rapid digital innovation, the EU’s Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan told a workshop in Brussels on January 14th, saying greater adoption of digital technologies will ensure farmers can produce more food more sustainably. ‘We have yet to witness a wider uptake in the broader farm community,’ Hogan told the event co-organised by Waterford Institute of Technology’s Telecommunications, Software & Systems Group.
Hogan pointed to €64 million of funding under the Horizon 2020 work programme (2016-2017) dedicated to digital technologies and precision farming. Some €30m is focussed on internet projects for farms, with the call for applications open until April 12th, Hogan said: ‘What is needed is aggressive investment into the further development of such technologies and also into their widespread adoption.’
Examples include sensors to measure on-farm data on crops and production, automated services and satellite imaging to improve yields and sustainability.
On a totally non-agricultural matter, I recently had the pleasure of being part of an international jury to choose the Belgian entry for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The Eurosong 2016 competition to choose the winning entry out of five acts went out live on one of the country’s Flemish television channels on January 17th and it was an honour to fly the Irish flag.
There was such a buzz back stage ahead of the voting procedure, while Ireland’s ‘douze points’ – or ‘twaalf punten’ as they say in Flanders – went to the obvious winner Laura Tesoro. The 19-year old singer will represent her country in Stockholm with the song ‘What’s the Pressure’ on May 14.
Of course if the song contest were ever to return to Dublin again – high hopes indeed – I would definitely put my name into the hat for the even bigger gig!
Rose O’Donovan is the Editor-in-Chief of the Brussels-based publication AGRA FACTS and a regular contributor to the video platform www.vieuws.eu