€800m EU fund sought to aid dairy farmers

The Government wants the European Commission to tap into an €800m superlevy package as part of a major intervention plan to help dairy farmers hit by collapsing incomes.

€800m EU fund sought to aid dairy farmers

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney confirmed yesterday that the plan, which will be discussed by European agriculture ministers in Brussels next Monday, includes:

  • Proposals to increase the intervention price on milk powders;
  • The provision of aid-to- private-storage for cheese products until the market price improves;
  • A 70% advance on area payments due to farmers over the coming week.

Mr Coveney spoke in Cork yesterday as hundreds of farmers protested in Dublin over falling incomes.

Raising concerns over plummeting milk and grain prices, protesters milked a cow and dumped a trailer load of feed on the street outside the commission’s office in the capital.

The action was organised by the Irish Farmers’ Association ahead of major protests in Brussels by European farmers timed to coincide with next Monday’s talks.

A farmer holds a pig as hundreds of farmers take part in a protest over falling incomes outside the European Commission’s office in central Dublin. 

The IFA claims the average farming income is close to €24,000.

It warned that political interference in markets, the Russian trade ban, severe price volatility, and unregulated retailers are combining to decimate farm incomes and undermine the sector.

IFA president Eddie Downey leads a protest of members to the new EU office in Dublin, where a letter was handed in demanding action

Dairy representatives said many of its farmers are seeing margins down as much as 92% in the last 16 months. Some have claimed that dairy farmers have faced income swings of up to €40,000 since milk quotas were abolished and prices crashed to a 12-year low.

It is estimated to cost 25c to produce a litre of milk in Ireland before farmers pay themselves or farm hands, and earlier in the month, the market price per litre dropped to as low as 28c, meaning many farmers could not break even.

IFA chief Eddie Downey also called on Mr Coveney to take action to remove the technical obstacles which are holding back valuable beef exports to newly opened markets in the US and China.

IFA president Eddie Downey

The IFA claimed beef prices will collapse in 2017, similar to what happened last year, if new markets are not accessed to deal with the increasing cattle numbers expected over the next two years.

Mr Coveney said he recognises dairy farmers are going through a tough time at the moment and discussed those concerns with European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan last week.

“It is a temporary pricing problem and we need temporary solutions to make sure that we can help farmers get through a difficult six months or so,” said Mr Coveney.

“The whole point of a common agricultural policy is that when times are difficult for farmers, and when we have a capacity to intervene with positive effect, that we actually use those tools.”

Mr Coveney said the plan up for discussion next Monday primarily seeks an increase in the intervention price for milk powders in the EU. It seeks to use an €800m superlevy package which is potentially available to the commission to spend mainly on market intervention.

And it also seeks a 70% advance on area payments that are due to farmers over the coming weeks. “Farmers would get more money earlier which would help to improve cash flow,” he said.

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