Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West has criticised a lack of empathy on the part of Commissioner Phil Hogan for the crisis being felt in the Irish tillage sector, particularly those farmers who have suffered due to severe weather conditions.
“Last September I wrote to Commissioner Hogan outlining the serious situation faced by tillage farmers with regard to a prolonged period of bad weather and resulting crop losses. Having visited affected farmers in my own constituency I witnessed, first hand, the devastation to harvests in the Midlands, North and Western parts of the country.
“The reply I received from Commissioner Hogan shortly before Christmas, a full 3 months after my letter, showed little empathy for the crisis being felt in the sector. Statistics given in the Commissioner’s letter were completely at odds with data being provided by Teagasc for the exact same period.
“He attempted to reconcile the situation by claiming that Irish farmers were receiving some of the highest prices in the EU, while Teagasc figures show that the average tillage farmer will return a negative net margin of €130/h.
“It wasn’t that long ago that the Commissioner was denying a crisis in the dairy sector, a delayed response that resulted in grossly prolonged hardship for the sector. Now he is calling for patience from a sector that relies on seasonal cycles to turn a profit. This is just not good enough.
“Continuing to ignore the crisis in this case could result in the tillage sector being completely wiped out in Ireland. It is an insult to be asking farmers to look at the present market situation with an “historical perspective”.
“It has now been 4 months since this crisis began and no action has been taken by either the European Commission or by the Irish government. Indeed the greatest cover Phil Hogan has is the failure of the Irish department to even seek crisis aid in this instance.
“The only good thing to come from this response was a commitment to work with the Irish Department of Agriculture to identify specific support measures at a national level.
“I again call on Minister Creed to immediately make use of flexibilities available to him under EU state aid rules to help Irish farmers out of this crisis.”