Animal welfare and ensuring a good income for farmers are more important than food quality to Irish consumers, an EU survey has found.
The questionnaire — carried out during a warm, dry, and sunny October — found the Irish rated farmers’ contribution to protecting the environment and dealing with climate change as the least important objective.
However, the lessons of the economic crisis were not lost on the Irish public, who rated the importance of agriculture higher than any other EU nationality.
Irish farmers and meat and dairy plants benefit from €1.8bn a year in subsidies from the EU, which helps fuel agriculture exports worth €10.5bn in 2014.
Around a quarter of those quizzed said the sums received by Irish farming were too low, while half thought it was just about right, and a sizeable percentage supported it being increased in the coming decade.
The EU poll sought to determine how the public rated agriculture in terms of its importance, explore their view of the role of the farmer, and the EU’s role in supporting them.
One in five Irish people claim to understand the details of the very complex Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which is double the EU average and just behind the Lithuanians.
After animal welfare and ensuring a fair standard of living for farmers, providing food at a reasonable price was the next most important role of the EU’s agriculture policy, according to the Irish public. The job of providing good quality, healthy, and safe food — the number one priority for the majority of EU citizens — was the fourth most important target for the Irish surveyed.
The general support voiced in the EU-wide survey for CAP, which absorbs 40% of the EU’s budget, was welcomed by Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan.
“I welcome the growing importance that citizens are putting on agriculture and rural areas, and appreciate that 70% of Europeans believe that the EU is fulfilling its role in securing the European food supply.
“These will feed into our deliberations when determining EU policy for the future,” said Mr Hogan.
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