Farm body claims consumers 'not paying enough for quality food'

Farm body claims consumers 'not paying enough for quality food'

The "cheap food" policy and the funding of anti-farmer publicity campaigns have been strongly criticised by the family farm organisation, ICMSA, which has also described division among farmers as "not a healthy situation".

Speaking to 300 delegates at the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association annual meeting at Limerick today, ICMSA president, Pat McCormack, called for a truce in the anti-farmer bashing.

He said: "Put simply, the consumer is not paying enough for quality food. They are underpaying for the highest quality food and they have been for decades.

As a farmer, we are receiving the same price we received 30 years ago which given the increase in input costs and regulation is just untenable.

He warned that the cheap food policy is only cheap for the consumers because farmers are 'carrying' them.

He said: "The cheap food policy was very expensive indeed for us. We get the same milk price today that our parents were getting 30-odd years ago. But every single bill we had has quadrupled at least."

Mr McCormack said that the ICMSA is more than 98% funded by membership fees paid annually by farmer members and he called for all non-governmental organisations commenting on diet, food and farming to reveal their sources of income.

He asked: "Are some of these NGOs being funded by the corporations busily developing synthetic replacements for natural beef and milk? If they are then I think we need to know."

He described the over-the-top nature of some of the programming during climate change week on RTÉ as "unbalanced".

On climate control, he said that farmers have to play their part and they will meet the challenge but the bashing is not being helpful: "I firmly believe that farmers will respond but I have question marks over other sectors. I am fed up with so-called experts jetting around the world from luxury hotel to luxury hotel, from five star-seminar to five star-seminar preaching about climate change but who never seem able to practice what they preach."

He called for dairy processors to acknowledge that markets have improved by a corresponding increase in milk price, emphasising that November milk should be paid at least 31c/lt.

On beef, he said that farmers could not be expected to continue supplying beef to the factories at 30-year-old prices while meeting production costs which have more than doubled in the meantime.

Farm body claims consumers 'not paying enough for quality food'

The Taoiseach told the meeting that farmers are "part of the fabric of our communities and our society" but they have been going through a difficult period.

"I know that during the recession, this industry helped us to bounce back and I know that the last two years have not been as good and for some they’ve been very bad" he said to the 300 farmers attending the meeting.

He added: "The Government will work with you on these challenges and we will help you prosper and thrive. In Budget 2020 we allocated €1.6 billion to the Department of Agriculture, over €50 million more than last year. That does not include ‘no deal’ Brexit funds or low-cost loans to the sector. You are our most important indigenous industry."

The Taoiseach said that the export value of the sector has grown by 73% over the last 10 years and now stands at a record €13.7 billion which equates to 10% of merchandise exports. The projection is to increase to €19bn through Through FoodWise by 2025.

The agricultural sector continues to make a significant contribution to employment - about 7.7% of total employment in the country.

Outside Dublin and the mid-east, the figure is between 10% and 14%. In some parts of the country, agri-food is the major employer alongside the public service and tourism.

He assured the farmers that the Government is working on alliances across Europe to ensure that the strongest possible support for agriculture is maintained in CAP Reform.

"Our ambition is to ensure that Irish agriculture continues to produce high quality, safe, traceable and nutritious food while protecting and enhancing the environment and upholding animal welfare," he said.

My message today is that the Government will continue to prioritise the CAP budget.

"To do so, we are prepared to contribute more to the overall EU budget if it is spent on things that contribute to the advancement of the European ideal, programmes that work and have stood the test of time like the CAP which has given Europe food security and helped to balance regional development across the continent" he assured the farmers."

He said that it will be necessary to make the new CAP much greener, incentivising, encouraging and remunerating farmers and industry to reduce emissions, produce green energy and promote biodiversity and its is what the consumers and taxpayers want and the right thing to do.

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