Mr Downey said: “While the Irish economy grew by almost five per cent last year, agriculture grew by more than double this rate, with the value of agricultural output increasing by 10 per cent in 2014. However, this increased output, which contributed to record agri-food exports and employment growth, was not reflected in farm incomes, with many farmers experiencing a difficult 2014.”
He continued: “This is not a sustainable situation, and farmers must be fairly rewarded for delivering a high quality product, produced to the highest environmental and animal welfare standards”.
Mr Downey said the new strategy for the agri-food sector for 2025 must deliver increased profitability at farm level, with actions required by all stakeholders to achieve this. These include:
- Delivery of an increased price premium for sustainably produced Irish food through development of an Irish brand for exported agri-food products
- Rural Development expenditure on farm schemes of a minimum of €550m per year, with additional funding where new priorities are identified, and an increased CAP budget in the next reform;
- Government support for increased provision and resourcing of farm advisory services, to improve knowledge transfer to farmers and increase on-farm efficiency;
- Further incentives to encourage farm restructuring and investment, including earlier lifetime transfers through the development of IFA’s proposed ‘Phased Transfer Partnership;
- Development of further options to tackle income volatility, through industry measures and the taxation system; and
- Government and EU action to improve competitiveness in the business environment, and to rebalance the food supply chain.