Ireland’s agri-food system is broken, from inside the farm gate to the consumer, according to beef farmer and Green Party Senator and Spokesperson on Agriculture Pippa Hackett.
She made the comments after speaking with farmers protesting at St Stephen’s Green on Wednesday morning.
“The sense of frustration and despair has heightened. The promises made in the beef talks in September, have not resulted in a successful outcome for these farmers, and they are back out on the streets.” she said.
Hackett believes that creating a consistently high demand for Irish food, while at the same time addressing our environmental commitments, should be at the heart of any effective solution for the Irish agri-food sector.
“Today (Thursday, November 28th), we read that Brazilian beef farmers have enjoyed an increase in price of 30% in the last few weeks (to the equivalent of €3.29/kg) and yet, Irish beef stagnates at nearly 20c/kg below the EU average at €3.40/kg.”
“The Government’s agri-food policies, with the help of state agencies like Bord Bia and Teagasc, have effectively devalued Irish beef, by pitching it against global giants of beef production in a global marketplace.”
“They are wholly responsible for the demise in Irish farming. Bord Bia seem happy to continue to represent the interests of multi-national corporations with multi-billion-euro turnovers, and while their profits grow year-on-year, Irish farmers on the ground face higher production costs and lower prices.”
“Our farmers are caught between a rock and a hard place, with few options, and no proper supports to improve farm incomes.” she stressed.
“Transparency and fairness within the sector are vital, and almost four months ago, before any talks took place, we called on the Minister to establish an independent review of the Irish beef sector, and still nothing.
Fair trade and fair price
She said that all farmers and their families want is a fair trade and a fair price for their produce.
“We expect a lot from our farmers, we expect them to adhere to rules and regulations, to engage with policy makers and legislators in reducing emissions and improving biodiversity and other environmental outcomes, yet when they face significant difficulties as is seen at the present time, they are left with little or no support, and no light at the end of the tunnel either.
She believes that a new land use plan is required to deal with the crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss, and also to turn the tide on “depressed” prices for primary producers.
Farmers will be relying heavily on a significantly reformed CAP to deliver the essential transitions and opportunities for their farms, she added.
“A business as usual approach, with a few cherries on top will not suffice. Food production will always remain central to our land use, but we must consider ways of adding real value to that product and paying our farmers for public goods such as carbon storage, water and air quality, and of course for biodiversity.”
“The clock is ticking, and our farmers are running out of time, and hope.” she concluded.