In the context of the Ukrainian crisis, significant implications are being seen across all sectors, including the agri-food sector. This is the number one priority for me and the Department at present, ensuring we can minimise as much as possible the impact of the war on our farm families here.
At farm level, the crisis is already impacting very significantly on the price of fertiliser, animal feed and fuel. Following a record year for Family Farm Income in 2021, Teagasc has forecast that a decline in 2022 is now highly likely, as output price increases will fail to offset the rise in production costs. Significantly higher production costs will be a feature across all sectors in 2022, with higher fertiliser, feed and fuel prices leading to an increase in agriculture input costs. The current market outlook for output prices is uncertain, with upward pressure likely, but very unlikely to cover the additional input costs.
Within my Department, I have established a Rapid Response Team to actively monitor the impacts on agri-food supply chains and to contribute to the whole of Government response to this crisis.
I also established the National Fodder and Food Security Committee headed by Teagasc and tasked it to prepare an industry response to the emerging crisis in feed, fodder, fertiliser and other inputs, and to develop contingency plans and advice to assist farmers in managing their farm enterprises.
There are sufficient supplies of fertiliser and animal feed at present although price remains a concern. The Government have introduced a temporary reduction in excise duty on fuels, assistance on the price of electricity & gas, and a targeted and temporary grant scheme for hauliers, all of which will be of some assistance to farmers and the agri-food sector.
I have announced a number of measures over the past three months to assist the agriculture sector including:
- €20 million in two packages for the pig sector,
- €12 million for the tillage sector
- €3 million for the horticulture sector
These targeted measures will help Irish farmers at a time of escalating costs and build resilience against the expected impact of the situation in Ukraine.
Earlier this month, I brought a Memo for Information to Government on measures aimed to assist cattle and sheep farmers to produce fodder (silage and/or hay) during 2022 to prevent a Fodder crisis during the coming winter. My Department is continuing to engage with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the detail of the scheme.
Following discussions at EU level, the European Commission announced in March, via the communication “Safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food systems”, a range of actions to enhance global food security and to support farmers and consumers in the EU in light of rising food prices and input costs. It includes €500 million in exceptional aid to support farmers most affected, including an allocation of €15.8 million to Ireland, and agreement to deploy measures to support specific markets.
In addition, on the future of Ireland's agri-food sector generally, you will be aware that the new Food Vision 2030 strategy was launched last August. Food Vision is a landmark for the Irish agri-food sector and is honest and upfront about the challenges ahead. Crucially, it proposes solutions and charts a pathway to sustainability in all its dimensions. Food Vision aims for Ireland to be a world leader in Sustainable Food Systems, which would deliver food security and nutrition for all in such a way that the economic, environmental and social basis to generate food and nutrition for future generations are not compromised. This will deliver significant benefits for the Irish agri-food sector itself, for Irish society and the environment.
I continue to engage with all our stakeholders and continue to work across Government, and with our European partners, to respond to this crisis, using all of the tools at our disposal. I am taking a very proactive approach to the crisis in Ukraine. We must protect our farm families and their businesses through this period of significant upheaval.