Speaking on the opening day of the Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co Kildare, IFA President John Bryan said major budget and CAP decisions in the coming months would be crucial for the future direction of the agricultural sector in Ireland, and would determine its ability to realise the potential for growth in food production.
He said, “As the Ploughing Championships celebrate their 80 birthday, the modern-day event embodies the scale and breadth of the agri sector in every part of the country. The 1,000-plus exhibitors who will be on site over the next three days is a record number and signifies the commercial importance of the agri sector to indigenous businesses across the country. Farm production remains the cornerstone of the wider industry and is the basis for output of €24bn, supporting over 300,000 jobs and exports in excess of €8bn. As the UCD study on The Importance of Agriculture and the Food Industry to the Irish Economy shows, every €100 worth of agricultural output creates an additional €73 of output in the wider economy, an impact that is significantly higher than the average of all other manufacturing sectors.”
The IFA President said Budget 2012 must be seen by the Government as a priority to invest in a sector that is outstripping all others with its export performance this year. “The UCD study is quite clear on the economic and social benefits of agriculture and the food industry across the country. Maintaining Government support through farm schemes and investment programmes will deliver a real return in generating economic activity, particularly in the rural economy, driving exports and underpinning jobs.”
John Bryan said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney would be making his first visit to Ploughing since taking up his post. “The Minister has displayed considerable energy and enthusiasm in his role. However, he will be judged by farmers on his first real test, which is to maintain funding for all farm schemes, retain existing tax reliefs and improve competitiveness in Budget 2012 to support production and drive the sector’s growth.”
Mr Bryan said, “next month, the EU Commission will unveil its formal proposals for CAP post-2013. On the basis of the leaked documents in the last six weeks, the Commission is embarking on a course of action that would be very detrimental to the production base in Ireland. Both the flat-rate proposal and making 2014 a reference year would be hugely disruptive for active producers who have made significant investments in their farms. The Minister must ensure these issues are addressed fully in any final agreement.”