Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has said that the 2017 Teagasc National Farm Survey confirms that the beef and sheep sectors are on the verge of collapse unless immediate action is taken.
Carthy, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee, said:
“The headline figure that average farm incomes have risen to €31,300 hides the real crisis that the Teagasc survey exposes. The rise is principally associated with growth in the volatile dairy sector which indicates average income of €86,000, primarily attributed to larger farm enterprises.
“Worryingly there has been no growth in the beef and sheep sectors with an average farm income of €16,900. Suckler income averages were as low as €12,680.
“That two of our most vital agricultural sectors are receiving just 54% of the national average income should be setting alarm bells ringing. That the Teagasc survey finds that only 47% of our farms are economically viable reaffirms that we are in the centre of a farm income crisis.
“This crisis did not just happen overnight; in 2013 sucker farm incomes were €20,019; but the Irish government and European Commission have been ignoring the warning signs for several years. Their inaction and neglect has led to greater market concentration, depressed prices and vital farming sectors on the verge of collapse.
“Of course, the imbalances are even starker when viewed on a regional basis. Cattle rearing farm incomes in the Northern and Western regions are €9,881, wholly unsustainable.
“Behind these figures are farm families facing uncertain futures. Successive Irish governments have paid lip service to the notion of saving our traditional Irish family farm network but have stood over a system that allows 35% of these farms to survive on an income of less than €10,000 per annum.
“Those farms are the backbone of rural economies. After years of austerity and emigration that have particularly impacted on rural communities local farms are the last industry that remains in many areas. If they go out of business rural communities suffer.
“We now need to move beyond platitudes from the government and the commission. We need an immediate response that includes direct supports to suckler farmers.
“An analysis carried out by UCD on behalf of the IFA showed that every €1 of support provided to suckler farmers generated over €4 of economic activity.
“We also require immediate measures to ensure that farmers receive a fair price for their product; that CAP payments are rebalanced to the farmers who need the support most; and that EU trade deals, that will put additional stress on Irish farmers, are abandoned.
“The Teagasc Farm survey shows that vital farm sectors are on the verge of collapse. It must be responded to with immediate political action”.