ICMSA president Pat McCormack: CSO’s figures highlight a difficult year for sector
The exceptionally difficult year experienced by farmers with the impact of the severe weather conditions is reflected in the latest CSO statistics, according to two of the country’s main farming organisations.
In terms of financial impact on farmers, the figures are catastrophic and show the cost of feed increasing by over €350m and fertilizer by €70m. Those figures speak for themselves, and from the perspective of our dairy farmer membership, we have to factor in the €43m reduction in the value of milk production to get an even more accurate idea of the challenge that Irish farming faced this year”, said Pat McCormack, president of the ICMSA.
The 16.1 percent reduction in operating surplus shown by the figures was largely driven by a substantial hike of over €350m on fee,, said IFA president Joe Healy.
Mr McCormack said that while the figures were “frightening”, it was the underlying message that was more important.
“Our farming sector is completely exposed to Brexit, to abuse by links further along the supply-chain and to extreme weather with the result that farm income can - and is - fluctuating wildly from year-to-year. We desperately need measures that can address that destructive cycle and regret to say that a proven solution - the Farm Management Deposit Scheme - was offered to the Government well in time for Budget 2019 and they, astonishingly, overlooked,” he said.
The Tipperary-based ICMSA leader said that farmers seemed to have been abandoned to wild price and income volatility on both the input and output sides with only slow and tentative moves to stop their already low margins being eroded further by both processing and retail corporations.
It must be obvious to everyone looking at Irish farmers having to pay more than half-a-billion euro in extra costs in 2018 that this can’t go on. We must see radical and long-overdue measures to tackle this completely unsustainable income and costs volatility, he said.
Mr McCormack said that Brexit was now days away and farmers still operated in the dark, with no certainty of what faced them.
“At the very least, the EU and our Government should publish their actual programmes as to how they intend to support farmers, whether it is a deal or no deal Brexit. We cannot continue to operate in a vacuum and we need to see definite actions immediately,” said Mr. McCormack.
Mr Healy said the value of cattle farming fell by €100m last year, another indicator of the severe pressure on livestock farmers’ incomes, mostly from the uncertainty caused by Brexit.
There had been no lift in the early part of this year and immediate political action was needed said the IFA leader.
He said the significant fall in farm incomes underlined the importance of strong supports in the next CAP.