STATEMENTS ON CURRENT ISSUES IN THE BEEF SECTOR
Deputy Declan Breathnach: I thank Deputy Ryan.
Mistrust, suspicion, frustration, talk of monopolies and cartels and the most recent desperation of farmers could have been forecast by me and many in this House for a long time. Farmers have been led down a cul de sac and suddenly they realised they need to come back up to the crossroads. The solution to this issue is “transparency”, a word that has been mentioned by many in this debate. Having spoken to many farmers and many people employed in the meat factories, many of whom have a deep connection to agriculture, I believe the farmers and the factories need to be friends not foes. During the past 20 years, the word “foe” has become more the norm than that of being friends. The crossroads farmers have reached is a critical point. We could talk about Brexit and the depressed state of beef demand not only in our nearest market in Britain but across Europe, particularly in terms of depressed prices. If we get a hard Brexit the issue of where we are now will have to be reconsidered.
I have a number of questions to which I hope the Minister will respond during the question and answer session. Can he assure farmers categorically that all of the actions and measures agreed in the talks will be stood over and delivered upon? Will he agree to appoint an independent food price regulator, which would bring some transparency? Deputy McConalogue and Fianna Fáil have been asking for that for a long time. Will the Minister commit to this House, as he indicated when I spoke on this issue earlier in the year, that the way forward is forward pricing? It is my belief that that can be achieved. The Minister seemed to indicate it can. Coupled with that, the issue of a base price in good faith needs to be arrived at by the factories. This industry is at a stage of imploding. If things get worse, it will implode further.
I have asked the Minister for Finance about supports in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Will the Minister commit to making sure those measures are in place in good time to give further support to the farming sector? It is no good providing them three months after things have imploded?