EU agrees multi-million aid package for Irish beef farmers

Market uncertainty arising from Brexit has hit beef farmers hard with profits slumping

The Irish beef and veal sector is hugely dependent on exports with five of every six tonnes of produce exported and about half of this going to the UK. Photograph: iStock

The Irish beef and veal sector is hugely dependent on exports with five of every six tonnes of produce exported and about half of this going to the UK. Photograph: iStock

 

A multi-million euro aid package has been agreed to support Irish beef farmers who have been hit by market uncertainty because of Brexit .

EU member states on Thursday voted in favour of a proposal from the European Commission to make €50 million available to farmers, which can be matched by national funds to take the total to €100 million.

The move comes as State authorities estimate that farmers have lost over €100 million over the last 12 months due to a drop in prices, with margins in the beef and veal sector having fallen by between 11 to 19 per cent.

The new measure is provided under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and is to be formally adopted by early next month. Following this, the Government will have until the end of July to design the framework for distributing the aid, which must avoid distorting competition in the sector.

“This fund is a recognition by the European Commission of the particular difficulties experienced by Irish beef farmers arising from significant price falls and market uncertainty,” said agriculture and rural development commissioner Phil Hogan.

Fragile but essential

“The money made available by the EU, which may be matched by the Irish Government, will protect a fragile but essential agricultural sector. Moreover, it will provide direct support to hard-hit farmers and will ensure the long-term viability of the Irish beef sector. The commission will continue to monitor closely the overall market situation,” he added.

The Irish beef and veal sector is hugely dependent on exports with five of every six tonnes of produce exported and about half of this going to the UK.

A report published by the Irish Farm Accounts Co-operative on Wednesday shows that more than a third of beef farmers are uncertain about whether they will be still be farming in five years given the hardship experienced in the sector and a lack of succession planning.

According to the study, the average beef farm lost €116 a hectare before EU subsidies last year.