Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that it will be inexcusable if the same reactionary approach to the fodder crisis is repeated by the Government in the coming months.
Deputy McGrath was speaking after Teagasc economists in their annual mid-year review of agricultural markets and farm incomes published yesterday predicted that the fodder crisis will result in substantial increases in costs in 2013 after an already high cost year.
Following an almost 25% increase in feed expenditure on livestock farms last year, 2013 is likely to see further increases. Overall farm expenditure on animal feeds, including the fodder imported earlier this year, is likely to be up about 17% in 2013 on the very high 2012 level:
“I am aware that Minister Coveney has rejected suggestions that farmers are facing a second fodder crisis, but this is the same Minister who also rejected the idea that we were even in a crisis when farmers up and down the country were experiencing record livestock loss due to the absence of fodder earlier this year. Farming organisations have last week acknowledged to me that two-thirds of farmers have a fodder deficit of up to 23%. In that kind of situation what we cannot have is the same Government reaction to events. We must have a clear strategic and nationwide plan which will be ready to be immediately implemented should the same or similar crisis conditions re-emerge.”
While minister Coveney has insisted that we are in a much better position from the recent fodder crisis, many observers have noticed that this still does include having the option of drawing down emergency funds from Europe:
“The European Commission was speedy in deploying the solidarity fund in response to recent floods in Central Europe while it failed to offer any relief for the estimated €1bn costs to Irish agri-food caused by last year’s weather and consequent fodder crisis. This time around I hope the Minister draws the attention of the Commission to a jointly produced document by Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany which argued their case for assistance from the solidarity fund and specifically mentions that livestock farms in the regions are threatened with shortage of fodder and will have to buy additional feed supplies during the winter. If Irish farmers have to endure another crisis of similar proportions without assistance from the solidarity fund then this Minister will have a lot to answer for. It is blatantly obvious that all national and European assistance should be made available if the fodder crisis reappears, failure to do so will be inexcusable,” said Deputy McGrath.