BY JOHN SEXTON
WHILE in the Munster area last Friday, EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan began his day with a visit to the Carbery Group in Ballineen where he was welcomed by chairman Dermot O’Leary and CEO Dan MacSweeney as he met the board.
In his opening remarks, Commissioner Hogan said that consolidation was not the answer in many scenarios and that the ongoing success of the West Cork co-operative model was testimony to this. He outlined the many and varied issues that will confront both EU and Irish agriculture over the next few years, saying the success of EU agriculture will depend on meeting the expectations of both farmers and consumers.
Given the many calls on EU Commission’s budget at this time, maintaining the current agriculture budget is a key priority of his for the next few years. Britain staying in the EU is central, not alone to Ireland’s trading relationship, but to the ongoing success of the wider EU community and he said it is a matter he will be watching closely in the course of the run-up to the UK referendum.
EU dairying has a challenge ahead, arising from this month’s CoP21 Climate Change summit in Paris. Commissioner Hogan is acutely aware of protecting the vital interests of farmers and their role in producing high-quality food.
When asked about the prospects for dairy prices ahead, he expected the current poor market to last until mid-year 2016. In the meantime, he said he will be working to ensure that borrowing costs can be reduced and the cost of meeting regulations mitigated.
The Commissioner commended Carbery for investing in value-added ingredients businesses in the USA, South America, the UK and South East Asia, which is in line with the Commission’s vision for the future of European agriculture.