Farmers dump grain in protest over incomes ‘ripped apart’

Dairy, cereal and pork sectors in crisis as IFA protest outside European Commission offices

An estimated 2,500 farmers dumped grain on the streets of Dublin on Monday in protest at falling incomes across many sectors of the industry. Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

Farmers dumped grain on the streets of Dublin at lunchtime on Monday in protest at falling incomes across many sectors of the industry.

The grain was dumped outside the offices of the European Commission in Mount Street as an estimated 2,500 farmers protested over price volatility.

A letter was handed in to the head of the European Commission Barbara Nolan calling for EU action on falling farm incomes. Farmers aired their grievances over falls in the price of milk, grain, pork and beef.

IFA national grain chairman Liam Dunne said farmers might as well dump grain because “there is no income left in it” and they have been unable to make a margin on cereals for three years.

He accused the EU Commission of failing to recognise the serious income challenge facing our 11,000 full and part-time tillage farmers as grain prices for the third year in a row are insufficient to cover production costs.

“Growers are forced to produce crops to satisfy bureaucratic requirements rather than respond to market signals,” he said. “The unwillingness on the part of the Commission to control speculative investment and fertiliser cartels has exacerbated income volatility leading to a boom and bust situation for many farmers.

“The lack of profitability in the tillage sector has resulted in a very significant fall in cereal production of close on 90,000 acres since 2012.”

He warned that Irish farmers will pull out of grain completely if something is not done.

IFA President Eddie Downey described farm incomes as “non-existent” at a time when children are going back to school and “farm families simply can’t find the cash to do that.”

He said the EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has to move now to implement EU measures to underpin the viability of farm families.

“As food producers we have had enough,” he said. “Farm family incomes have been ripped apart over the last eight to 10 months.”

He accused the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney of making big promises about opening new markets in China and the United States to Irish products, but the reality has been something completely different. Just €500,000 worth of beef has been sold to the United States when talk was of sales of €80 million to €100 million.

John Murphy from Co Dublin brought his Canadian Hostein cow Baldonnel Sylvia to Dublin to protest at milk prices that have gone from “unsustainably high to unsustainably low”. Milk peaked at 42 cents a litre last year and is now down to 25 cents a litre because of international competition.

“It’s way behind the cost of production all summer and it doesn’t look like stopping. We need the EU to step in and put a floor under it. Coming into the winter, this is completely unsustainable.”

IFA national dairy chairman Sean O’Leary said the margins on dairy farms had decreased by 92 per cent in the last 16 months. He suggested that the €800 million paid into superlevy fines for over-quota farmers should be redistributed among dairy farmers in the EU.

IFA pigs chairman Pat O’Flaherty said pig farmers across Ireland and the EU are in a serious loss-making situation and it is critical that the EU Commission look to re-open markets, including Russia which used to account for a quarter of all EU pork exports.

Mr Downey said with family farms so dependent on direct payments, Minister Coveney and the Department of Agriculture must deliver all payments on time and within the deadlines set down in the new charter of farmers’ rights. He said with the income pressure on farmers this year, there is no room for any delays whatsoever on payments.