19 Sep 2017
TIME TO RECOGNISE FARMERS’ CENTRAL ROLE IN FOOD PRODUCTION
Speaking at the opening day of the Ploughing Championships in Tullamore, IFA President Joe Healy said the agri-food sector will be facing a shortage of raw material if farmers are not better rewarded.
“There are lots of retailers, processors and agencies doing well on the back of what farmers are producing. However, farmers, particularly in the beef, sheep and tillage sectors, are really struggling. Farmers cannot keep working harder and harder for less and less,” he said.
Joe Healy said, “The Ploughing Championships is a showcase for the sector and should be about the central role of farmers and their families in our largest indigenous industry. Yet increasingly, farmers are cast to the margins and are being exploited by retailers and processors. The constant downward pressure that devalues food is simply unsustainable. Retailers claiming to be supporters of farmers are merely pushing them to the brink and encouraging food waste with their battle for market share. I am challenging all the major retailers to display a genuine commitment to farmers by returning a fair price for food.”
The IFA President said the imbalance in the food chain means farmers are bearing the brunt of exchange rate disturbances arising from Brexit. The rest of the actors in the food chain pass any losses back to farmers. “At its weakest point, the sterling exchange rate has hit beef farmers for €2m per week. The mushroom sector is also badly exposed as the fallout from the political uncertainty hits farmers in their pockets. IFA expects the Minister and the Government to make a strong case in Brussels for EU funds to support Irish farmers.”
The IFA President said he was very worried about the looming succession crisis, where drystock and tillage farms in particular won’t keep going because nobody wanted to take up the reins. “A low-income lifestyle will not convince young people to return home to farm, with significant knock on damage to rural communities.”