Coveney hopes for €800m in EU funds to aid farm prices

Minister for Agriculture says he recognises farmers have it tough due to falling prices

IFA president Eddie Downey described farm incomes as “non-existent” at a time when children are going back to school, and urged Agriculture Commissioner Phil  Hogan to move to implement EU measures to underpin the viability of farm families. File photograph:  Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

IFA president Eddie Downey described farm incomes as “non-existent” at a time when children are going back to school, and urged Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to move to implement EU measures to underpin the viability of farm families. File photograph: Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

 

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, has expressed hope the European Commission will release up to €800 million in funding which could be used to guarantee minimum farm prices, as farmers protested in Dublin over falling prices.

Mr Coveney said Ireland will be pushing hard for the commission to release up to €800 million in superlevy money which could potentially be used to guarantee minimum dairy prices across the European Union.

“We have a very clear proposal for the Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan - it’s a six-point plan and primarily it’s about asking for an increase in the intervention price which is the sort of guaranteed floor price for milk powders in the European Union,” he said.

“We are also looking for aid to private storage for cheese product which essentially allows companies be paid for product and be paid for the cost of storing their product so that they can hold it out of the market until prices improve,” he added.

Mr Coveney said he had met with IFA leaders last week and was well aware of the planned protests which took place outside the European Commission office in Dublin on Monday, in which over 2,000 farmers participated.

Grain dumped

Farmers dumped grain outside the commission offices in Mount Street and a letter was handed in to the head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, Barbara Nolan, calling for EU action on falling farm incomes.

IFA president Eddie Downey described farm incomes as “non-existent” at a time when children are going back to school, and urged Mr Hogan to move now to implement EU measures to underpin the viability of farm families.

He accused Mr Coveney of making big promises about opening new markets in China and the US to Irish products when the reality had been completely different, with just €500,000 worth of beef sales to the US rather than the talked-about figure of €80 million-plus.

Mr Coveney said he was fully aware of the difficulties farmers were facing across all sectors including dairying, adding he was determined to move quickly for a resolution when a European Commission meeting takes place next Monday in Brussels.

“Certainly I recognise that dairy farmers are going through a tough time right now - it’s a temporary problem, and we need temporary solutions to make sure that we can help farmers get through a difficult six months or so,” he said.

Speaking in Cork at the opening of the latest in a series of restaurants belonging to Kerry company Quinlan Seafood, which will create 120 jobs, Mr Coveney said the Government was looking at providing 70 per cent advance area payments to help with cashflow problems.

Pig producers

Mr Coveney conceded no progress was likely to be made in the immediate future on lifting the Russian ban on EU food products stemming from the Ukraine crisis, but pointed out that there was some latitude for pig producers to sell product into Russia.

“There is actually some scope in terms of pigmeat because the Russian presidential decree which has resulted in the embargo of a lot of agricultural products coming from the European Union did not actually cover all pigmeat products,” he said.

“So there are certain cuts and certain types of pigmeat such as offal for example that actually could be sold into Russia and we would like to see the commission negotiate that and allow individual countries to trade in certain cuts of pigment, particularly in lower value stuff.”