Sheep farmers warn over prices


OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE:THE MOST productive farmers in the country could lose a third of their income under possible Common Agricultural Policy (Cap)changes, an Oireachtas committee heard yesterday.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) warned that the price increases seen by farmers in the last year should not be taken for granted and neither could ambitious targets for the sector be achieved without a stable Cap policy.

The members of the association gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture which is assessing the potential impact of Cap reform on Irish farmers.

ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch said as things stand some 76,000 farmers would gain 86 per cent through reform of the Cap and a further 56,000 would lose 33 per cent.

However, he said the figures were misleading as those who would gain from changes to the single farm payment were often part-time farmers and the gains they would make would be small.

He said the farmers who would lose at present would lose a “significant sum that is absolutely vital to their interests”. He welcomed a proposal by Portugal that no country should lose more than eight per cent in Cap reform.

ICSA chairman Gabriel Gilmartin said there appeared to be no rush to reform Cap and he expected that negotiations would not be concluded during Ireland’s presidency of the European Union in the first half of next year.

A new Cap regime is due to be in place by 2014.

Mr Gilmartin said his organisation was also opposed to a return to coupling instead of the single farm payment. He said decoupling (not linking payments to the number of animals) had ensured farmers were getting a good price for their cattle and sheep. It would be in the interest of meat factories if decoupling occurred because it could lead to an oversupply of animals which would depress the price paid to farmers, he warned.