Cllr Séamie Morris of Sinn Féin has expressed his continuing deep concern for the treatment of Irish farmers at the hands of multi-national operators, as revealed by CSO figures this week.
He said that “Irish farmers are doing everything right. They are managing their input costs. They are innovating and adapting. But still they find it hard to make a living”.
Central Statistics Office (CSO) farm income figures for 2014, released on Wednesday, show that there has been a drop in average farm incomes of 1%. “That may not sound like a lot,” said Cllr Morris, “but incomes weren’t high to start with, and Teagasc calculates the income drop as over 2% nationally”.
This years weather conditions were also favourable, and enabled an increased contribution to the Irish economy from agriculture. This increased contribution – with increased output from farms generally – should be yielding better returns to the farmers themselves.
That there is a drop in income under favourable circumstances, shows that the link between the work the farmers do, and the returns they receive has become disconnected in a way that ordinary Irish people find hard to accept.
Irish farmers contribute to the Irish economy – increasingly – yet their incomes decrease.
“The food supply chain is complex”, said Cllr Morris, “but not so much so that Irish citizens don’t want greater transparency in pricing”. Shoppers want fair prices, not fat profits for multi-national retailers.
Echoing the recent words of IFA President Eddie Downey, Cllr Morris said that the requirement for liveable income levels must be met before any new agri-strategy can succeed.
“Agri-food growth targets can only be met if there is an increase in profitability for the farmers”, said Cllr Morris.
If what’s being done inside the farm-gate is right, then the improvement must come from outside that same gate.
“The farming families that I speak with express their continued concern for their livelihoods. That Teagasc has earlier predicted another difficult year in 2015 is very unwelcome at this point”, he added.
“Irish farmers are contributing to our recovery, but are not getting their fair share in return”.