President, Irish Farmers’ Association
Global events in recent months raise significant questions about food security and future policy around food production. 2022 is shaping up to be a very challenging year for farmers.
At our annual general meeting in January, we warned about the pressures on farmers because of rising input costs. However, the entire inputs landscape was altered dramatically following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Protecting the future of farming
Farm families are under enormous pressure as steep cost increases, threatening their viability. If we are to fireproof the sector at farm level, IFA is suggesting the following measures:
- A nationally co-ordinated strategic plan for the coming years, with a range of innovative financial supports.
- Greater transparency on fertiliser/fuel/feed stocks to support informed on-farm action/corrective strategies in the coming months, and a national procurement strategy if required.
- Others in the value chain to share the burden of the increased cost of production and risk.
The food chain has been slow to respond, retailers have to step up and return more price increases to farmers.
Government action is needed
The upheaval in recent months underlines the urgency of retail regulation. Legislation has to bring about a fundamental overhaul of relationships within the food chain. Without this, farm businesses will continue to find it very difficult to survive. The Government has promised this for long enough. It’s time to see some action.
Climate policy will continue to be a central part of all discussions around food production. Our global population is due to increase from 7.5 billion today to 10 billion by 2030. Everybody accepts there is a climate emergency, but we have to recognise how fragile food security is. Too many policy decisions in Europe are happening in the absence of a proper analysis of the consequences, the EU Farm to Fork is a classic example of this. Global climate policy treats every country as a silo, but there is a lack of joined-up thinking on food.
Some regions are at a geographical advantage with the resources they can access. We are fortunate that our island is an ideal location to produce food. We should celebrate this, nurture it and continue to develop our sector.
Global demand for our main commodities is growing and more people will need more food. However, the thrust of EU and Government policy is about producing less – this is short-sighted.
Food will have to a bigger priority and Irish farmers will be needed more than ever.