EU plans to fast-track €840m in subsidies to Irish farmers
Phil Hogan expected to announce series of measures to address collapsing prices
European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan expected to announce the advance on Monday. Photograph: Eric Luke
The European Commission is planning to fast-track €840 million in payments to Irish farmers as part of the series of measures to deal with collapsing commodity prices.
European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan is expected to announce the advance at a meeting of European Union agricultural ministers on Monday which is being targeted by protesting farmers from across Europe.
Under the Basic Payment Scheme, formerly the Single Farm Payment, Irish farmers receive about €1.2 billion in subsidies from Brussels.
Normally, about half is paid ahead of time in October but the commission plans to extend this advance to 70 per cent as a result of the current crisis, with the remaining 30 per cent paid in December.
The move comes amid growing concern about falling milk, cereal and pig meat prices, which have eroded farmer incomes and sparked widespread protests across Europe.
Oversupply in the global dairy market, combined with the Russian import ban, has seen milk prices crash from 39 cent a litre in 2014 to 25 cents this year.
The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association estimates about €1 billion has been wiped off the value of farmer produce in the Republic as a result of the slump and warns many farmers face financial ruin if Brussels fails to take decisive action.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has joined a chorus of calls for an increase in the EU intervention price for milk, which is currently 23 cent a litre. Mr Hogan has so far resisted the calls, insisting farmers must be weaned off market supports.
The Irish Farmers’ Association wants the €800 million paid this year in superlevy milk fines used to support the dairy sector.