Sinn Féin area representative Conor McGuinness has welcomed the €50 million exceptional aid fund for Irish beef farmers announced by the European Commission, to be topped up to a total amount of €100m by the Irish government in order to compensate the sector for the negative impacts of Brexit.
However, McGuinness cautioned that the crisis caused by Brexit is ongoing and the final tally of losses for farmers could be significantly higher, and called on the Government to clarify how the funds will be delivered as soon as possible.
Sinn Féin’s call for a much larger Brexit relief fund for all vulnerable sectors remains.
“For many months, Sinn Féin has been challenging the European Commission and Irish Government to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to the losses farmers are facing as a result of Brexit.
“I am pleased to see we finally have a concrete figure to offset the losses farmers have faced already, although I am slightly sceptical of the timing, so close to an election.
“It must also be remembered that this figure was agreed on the basis of calculations which were based on pre-Brexit prices in 2015, to prices in 2018.
“No attempt has been made to calculate what farmers will likely lose over the next 12 months. Estimates are that Brexit is costing farmers €4 million every week on prime cattle kill, and with a delay until at least October these losses will continue – if not worsen.
“Therefore, the need for the bespoke Brexit fund that I have been calling for remains, not only for agriculture but for all sectors and regions affected.
“I am also waiting to see how the announced supports will be delivered. The procedure must be simple and reach the struggling farmers that need it most.
“After all, half of the money, €50 million, is coming from the Irish exchequer – this is not some gift from Europe and it must not get lost in bureaucracy or end up in the hands of intermediaries.
“Our family farming model is under huge pressure not only from Brexit but from concerted efforts from the processing and retail sectors to drive down prices.
“Brexit has acted as a useful excuse for them to slash prices. I have been working alongside MEP Liadh Ní Riada to secure a ban on many of the practices used by the factories to squeeze farmer profit margins.
“The profitability crisis has left many family farmers heavily dependent on their CAP payments to make ends meet.”