Government support needed for small beef farmers

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The Irish beef sector needs more support from the government to survive the challenges of Brexit, Eugene Murphy has said.

The Galway TD was speaking in the Dáil in support of a motion calling on the government to introduce 14 policy steps to support the beef sector.

He said that Ireland’s 1 million head suckler cow herds are “pivotal in supporting the local economy in rural Ireland”, and that every €1 invested in rural farms will return €4 in benefits to the local community.

The Fianna Fáil TD said that while beef exports contribute €2.4 billion to the economy, the farming families that create that earn less than €13,000 a year on average, and are fully dependent on CAP payments to survive.

“I do not need to tell the Minister about the cost of beef production, and he knows well that beef farmers feel the squeeze. ”

“The average beef price is hovering at €3.75 per kilogram or lower and the average cost of production is €4 per kilogram. This is not sustainable, as the Government has heard over and over again.”

He accused the government of having to be pulled “kicking and screaming” into introducing an allowance for the suckler cow at a rate of €40.

More than 90% of all beef produced in Ireland is exported according to figures presented in the Dáil, with half of all exports going to the UK.

According to the motion introduced by Fianna Fáil a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for cattle farmers, with WTO tariffs adding a cost of €780 million to imports to the UK.

It called on the government to immediately introduce Brexit mitigation funding for farmers, work with Bord Bia and French authorities with a view towards increasing the export of calves to the continent, and protect the beef sector in any future CAP or trade negotiations among other measures.

“I am passionate about the issue because I was reared on a small farm,” Eugene Murphy said.

“We will stand with the farming communities in attendance and fight for them in order that they might obtain a better deal. They cannot and will not survive on what is currently available.”