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Jerry Long - ICOS President

Renewed pressure for market supports will be placed on EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski in a meeting to be held by conference call with ICOS and other European co-operative representative bodies on Wednesday.

ICOS President Jerry Long and European Affairs Executive Alison Graham will represent the Irish dairy processing co-operatives on the call with Commissioner Wojciechowski.

Jerry Long said, “While the lack of action taken by the EU to support agri-food markets is both disappointing and frustrating so far, our message on the difficulties faced by farmers and agri-food co-operatives as a result of this crisis is being heard and discussions are ongoing on the highest levels of the EU.

“We were very disappointed by remarks made last week by Commissioner Wojciechowski.  The Commissioner has acknowledged the crisis situation that has developed in the dairy sector and the need for market management tools to be implemented, however, he has so far failed to find the necessary funding for supports.  This in a context where, by contrast, the European Central Bank has announced a €750bn bond buying programme to support the assets and economies of member states.

“Instead, Commissioner Wojciechowski has used this crisis to argue that the agri-food chain must become more localised and focused on domestic markets, with a reduced concentration on exports. From our point of view, this is an extraordinary proposition for an Agriculture Commissioner to make. We hope that this does not represent a new direction in the European Commission’s position, which would have serious implications for our production here in Ireland where we export up to 95% of our output at some €13bn in value and are proud to say we are feeding families across the world.

“Exporting is a key means by which agricultural co-operatives add value to products and our presence on markets around the world has enabled us to become more resilient to market disruption, not less. Indeed, the value of the EU’s single market and its international trade policy lies in the opportunity it affords us to specialise in certain product categories. We feel strongly that we need to avoid any protectionist sentiment.

“Instead, we welcome the leadership shown by EU Agricultural Ministers, who last week collectively wrote to the Commission seeking immediate additional supports for the sector, including aid for private storage of dairy and beef products, which has been a key ask for ours since the beginning of the crisis, given the challenges we face since the closure of the food service sector.”

Jerry Long also pointed out that Agriculture MEPs have also sent a letter to the Commission demanding that necessary action be taken to support the market and that the required funding should quickly be found.

“We keenly await a swift follow up on these calls to action and will continue to keep the pressure on until the necessary steps are taken.

“Supporting our agri-food sector right now will be critical for the recovery of the European economy, particularly for our rural areas, in the next phase of this crisis. Failing to act now, will mean we pay for the crisis ten times over in the coming months and years as we address longer term damage,” said Jerry Long.