Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, says the EU Commissioner Designate Phil Hogan must put the exploitation of farmers by large supermarkets top of his agenda.

Speaking at the 2014 National Ploughing Championships in County Laois, Deputy Ó Cuív stated: “Artificial barriers have been put in place by powerful interests, which are having a detrimental impact on farmers all over the country. There is now a need to take on these interests. We have seen in recent months a crisis in the beef trade, pressure on liquid milk famers and totally unfair practices in relation to fruit and vegetables where produce is being sold at a below cost price. Fianna Fáil believes it is vital that the EU acts to protect guarantees to farmers enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.

“There is a commitment in the Lisbon Treaty to ensure that farmers can make a fair living from the land.  It is therefore our intention to raise the issue of fair prices for farmers on a policy level with the EU Commission.  We will be seeking a level playing pitch between primary producers, processors, multiples and consumers in the interest of Irish and EU agriculture. This is the biggest issue facing Irish farming and Commissioner Designate Phil Hogan must make this a priority when he assumes office; it is time for political leadership on this.

“The figures are stark. Beef prices are down 20% this year, with farmers now receiving €200-€300 less per head on average. Two of the main issues affecting the beef price is the ‘bull beef’ specification issue and the beef labelling problem.

“As an immediate relief, Fianna Fáil is proposing the introduction of a €200 per head payment for one year for farmers under the Beef Genomics Scheme. It would attract more farmers into the scheme and give some assistance financially to farmers who are losing considerable amounts of money on beef cattle

“I am also calling on Minister Simon Coveney to ensure that all beef born, bred and slaughtered on the island of Ireland can be labelled as Irish beef. Not enough has been done by the Minister on this and he cannot hope to sleep-walk through the crisis and hope it resolves itself.”