Mairead McGuinness MEP says: ' Beef farmers are at breaking point as the full impact of the closure of the food services market takes hold'
Mairead McGuinness MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament has warned the EU Agriculture Commissioner that the fund of €25 million for storage of meat is insufficient to meet the needs of the sector, decimated by market disruption.
Today (Thursday, April 30) the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee met EU Farm Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, to discuss the new market measures to help the agri-sector through the Covid-19 crisis.
“The commissioner rightly acknowledged that the beef sector, in particular, was fragile before the Covid-19 crisis,” Ms McGuinness said. “Today I informed him that that fragility has now escalated to a situation where beef farmers are at breaking point as the full impact of the closure of the food services market takes hold.”
She said an entire and important outlet for beef through restaurants, cafes and bars is now closed.
“There is simply no market for some cuts and beef prices have fallen to a point where beef farmers are deeply concerned about the medium to long-term viability of their enterprises.
“While any support offered to the sector is welcome, in order for the measures to impact at farm level with better prices, it needs to be of a sufficient scale and duration.
“Equally, I impressed upon the Commissioner that the APS (Aid to Private Storage) scheme must be flexible in order to allow specific cuts to be offered for storage but to continue to allow cuts that can be sold to make it onto the marketplace.”
Ms McGuinness also urged the Commissioner to ensure that the single market operates without interruption, expressing concern about developments in one member state, where the Government is naming and shaming companies importing dairy produce from other EU member states.
“This breach of the single market is now subject to a formal complaint by the European Dairy Association to the European Commission,” McGuinness said.
“Ireland as a major exporter of food onto the EU single market should be concerned about efforts to renationalise the food market.
“The Commissioner is keen on supporting local markets, suggesting that we need to refocus on local markets and EU food security. He also referred to the transportation of food with 3 billion tonnes moving every year within the EU.
“Limiting the transport of food is likely to be part of the as yet unpublished farm to fork strategy. Ireland, as a major exporter, needs to be aware of the implications of these proposals,” she warned.
Separately, the MEP said the processing of agriculture produce has continued without interruption through the current crisis, a testament to the commitment of workers in this essential sector.
“With Covid-19 still persisting in the community, it is very important that the processing sector has in place all measures to ensure the health of workers and allow the plants to continue to operate.
“We are hearing alarming stories from around the globe about processing plants unable to operate due to the Covid-19 crisis.
“The safety of workers is paramount,” she said.