Galway-based EU Independent candidate Dr. Fidelma Healy Eames has called for the removal of all Governmentt levies on beef cattle to go some way towards alleviating the financial hardship and stress being experienced by beef farmers countrywide.
“The Government should remove all levies on slaughtering of beef cattle indefinitely until there’s a floor under the beef trade. Likewise, levies should be removed on all live exports. This is a small measure that is within the control of the Government. The Dept of AGR (DOA ) should be working for the farmer without having to be paid by the farmer. We have an ongoing crisis in the beef sector. In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, as soon as sterling dropped in value, cattle prices collapsed and that’s almost three years ago now,” the Independent candidate remarked.
According to Dr. Healy Eames, the same animal in the UK fetches up to €200 more per head, yet Irish meat on British and European shelves commands a premium price.
“The excuse of the sterling dropping in value was total opportunism by the meat processors. Farmers have no confidence in the beef trade. At current prices beef production is not sustainable. If and when Brexit comes in, which of course is quite likely, and we are faced with competition from world markets, the Irish beef trade will no longer exist. It will mean the collapse of the suckler farmers’ livelihood, which is the mainstay of farming in rural Ireland. Removing the levies would be a small bit of breathing space for farmers and would acknowledge in some slight way the difficulties being experienced by the beef sector,” the EU election aspirant continued.
The Independent candidate acknowledged a number of factors which will have an effect on the beef industry in the future.
“The bigger picture of course is, a good Brexit deal means there is no light at end of tunnel unless Brexit is successfully negotiated in favour of Irish trade. Here, I believe, is an opportunity for new Irish MEPS to reach out to their British counterparts to mend relations and negotiate a better package for our farmers plus a fully funded CAP reform package.
“The effects of the collapsed beef trade on farmers at the moment is extremely worrying and I have noted that farmers’ mental health is threatened, co-ops and suppliers are keeping many of them going with credit and finally, farmers are relying on off-farm income from family members. It is shameful of our Government to let down our farmers, who are amongst the best food producers of high quality food in the world. This must change,” Dr. Healy Eames concluded.