Government approves €50m scheme for beef farmers affected by pandemic

Package will offer a per head payment for cattle slaughtered during a specific period

Beef prices have been hit hard by the closure of the food service sector here and in other countries.  Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

Beef prices have been hit hard by the closure of the food service sector here and in other countries. Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

 

The Government has approved a €50 million support scheme for beef farmers affected by the pandemic.

The new direct payments package, which targets beef finishers, will offer a per head payment for cattle slaughtered during a specific period.

It is designed to cover price losses incurred as a result of the collapse in the market due to Covid-19 and other factors, including Brexit.

Beef prices have been hit hard by the closure of the food service sector here and in other countries.

A similar downturn in prices last year resulted in a nationwide blockade of meat processing plants with farmers claiming they were being forced to sell at below the average cost of production.

Figures from the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) show winter finishers selling cattle have taken a price cut in the order of €200 per head, when compared to pre-Brexit and pre-Covid-19 prices.

Unveiling details of the scheme, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said he was “acutely aware” of the ongoing market disturbance related to Covid-19 in the Irish beef sector and the significant consequences for beef farmers and for the rural economy as a whole.

“Farmers with finished animals have suffered a dual impact over recent months: reduced prices and a reduced kill,” he said.

“ This support for the beef sector is an emergency response to a dramatic economic shock, to mitigate the worst Covid-19 economic impacts on these farm enterprises,” he said.

Mr Creed said that his department will be engaging with stakeholders in relation to the details of the scheme to be developed, which must also submitted to the EU for state aid approval.

Financial hit

IFA livestock chairman Brendan Golden welcomed the beef package, saying finishers had taken a severe financial hit this spring. He said the Covid-19 crisis has impacted significantly on markets, especially the food service sector, which was closed down.

“As a major beef exporter, Ireland was hit much harder than many other countries.”

IFA president Tim Cullinan also welcomed the announcement. “The details of the scheme and the small print will be very important,” he said.

The IFA is set to meet with the Department of Agriculture next Monday to progress the scheme details further.

“IFA made detailed submissions to Government outlining the strong case for a direct payment support package and our officers around the country have worked hard lobbying politicians,” he said.

“This new package, along with the recent €35 million Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme Sucklers (BEEP-S) scheme secured for suckler cows is badly needed,” he said.