IFA calls on Varadkar to defend €6.6bn beef trade

THE beef and livestock sector is the very heartbeat of rural Ireland and must be defended and secured in the face of major challenges.

IFA president Joe Healy, speaking at Tullamore Show, said the industry accounts for €6.6bn in overall output with an economic impact spread across every rural parish in the country.

However, he warned major challenges are facing the sector, ranging from Brexit, the Mercosur trade deal and Common Agricultural Policy reform to falling cattle prices and unacceptably low incomes for farmers.

“It has never been more important that our new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, along with Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, show strong political leadership in defending the sector.

“Equally, every section of the industry from farmers to factories, and all others involved in the business, must play their part in a united and responsible way to secure a viable future for the sector,” he said.

Mr Healy said the Government must keep farming and agriculture firmly at the top of the Brexit agenda in Dublin and Brussels.

The beef sector, with 260,000 tonnes of exports to the UK, is particularly exposed and must be fully protected. Livestock farmers rely very heavily on direct payments for their income, he said, urging Mr Creed to demand a CAP budget rise.

IFA Livestock Committee chairman Angus Woods said €80 per head had been knocked off cattle prices at the meat factories over the last four weeks. These cuts are costing farmers €2m per week and must stop.

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