EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan announced a €50 million compensation fund for Irish beef farmers on May 16th to assist those badly hit as a result of Brexit.
The Irish government has said it will match the €50 million, bringing the total fund to a total €100 million. The aid package is expected to be paid out to beef producers in the autumn.
The EU Farm chief said the exceptional measures ‘recognise the particular difficulty that Irish beef farmers have experienced during an unprecedented and sustained period of low prices, principally driven by events beyond their control.
‘This fund will support a fragile but very important sector and protect its long-term viability … the Commission has concluded that the sector is in need of an immediate response.’ Speaking at the recent Irish Farmers Journal Beef Summit in Ballinasloe, Ireland’s Agriculture Minister, Micheal Creed, said it was ‘time for the beef sector to fight back on these issues … denial or retribution will not make the fight effective.’ Under pressure from the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and heckled by the 1,300 farmers at the Shearwater Hotel in early May, the Macroom man said ‘looking in detail at market developments over the last number of months, there has been an unprecedented flat-lining of producer prices from October 2018 to the present … accompanied by high slaughter numbers.’
Creed stated that farmers will be the only section to benefit from the beef package. He insisted ‘factories won’t benefit, full stop,’ assuring them that ‘we can make it happen that it will be just the farmers who benefit from this, that’s an imperative.’
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin hit out at Hogan’s involvement in the funding in the middle of an election campaign, accusing the government of making the announcement less than one week before local and European elections. He accused the Commission and Irish government of doling out money ‘whereby billions of euros are being announced and Ministers are refusing at point blank to explain where the money is coming from.’
He added: ‘The Taoiseach has even gone so far as to involve our European Commissioner in the unprecedented breaking of the tradition of the Commission refusing to make funding announcements during campaigns.’
• Rose O’Donovan is the editor-in-chief of the Brussels-based agricultural publication Agra Facts.