Farmers dump grain in protest at ‘non-existent’ farm incomes

European Commission urged to intervene and help falling agricultural prices

Piglets feeding on grain at the IFA protest outside the European Commission offices in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Piglets feeding on grain at the IFA protest outside the European Commission offices in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Farmers dumped grain in front of the European Commission buildings in Dublin yesterday and warned that farm incomes were being “ripped apart”.

A lorry loader pulled up outside the commission’s new office on Mount Street and tipped a load of grain on to the street.

A letter was handed in to Barbara Nolan, the head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, calling for concerted EU action on falling farm incomes.

The farmers’ intentions were to highlight what they see as the multitude of problems of below-cost production on some of the most critical sectors of the agricultural economy.

“We might as well dump it. The price of grain is so poor. We’re getting nothing for it. There’s no income left in it,” said Liam Dunne, grain chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association.

 

Cereal farming

In front of a crowd of some 2,000 farmers, Mr Dunne issued a warning about the future of cereal farming in Ireland.

 

Grain farmers had not got a return on their investment for three years, he said.

“We’re talking about the shutdown of the cereal industry in Ireland if this continues.”

The dairy and pork industries are also struggling, though for different reasons.

The price of milk has fallen as a result of an oversupply in the world market. John Murphy of Newcastle, Co Dublin brought his Canadian Holstein cow, Baldonnel Sylvia, to Mount Street to protest over milk prices.

Milk peaked at 42 cent a litre last year and is now down to 25 cent because of international competition.

Pork prices have fallen because of a Russian ban on EU imports in retaliation for EU sanctions over Ukraine. Russia used to take 25 per cent of EU pork exports.

IFA president Eddie Downey said farm incomes were “non-existent” at a time when children were going back to school.

He urged agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan to implement EU measures to underpin the viability of farm families.

He accused Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney of making 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.

 

Guaranteed prices

In response, Mr Coveney said Ireland would push hard for the commission to release up to €800 million in super-levy money, which could potentially be used to guarantee minimum dairy prices across the EU.

 

Ireland had a very clear proposal for Mr Hogan, the Minister said.

“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 EU.

Mr Coveney said he was determined to move quickly for a resolution when a European Commission meeting took place next Monday in Brussels.

“Certainly I recognise that dairy farmers are going through a tough time right now,” he said. “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.”