The period of cheap food and period of very low interest rates is going to change, says Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal at the National Ploughing Championships this week, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment described a “knock-on effect” where increases in grocery prices “reflect the reality of the fact that input prices for farmers have gone up too”.

On where food prices go in future, he said “it’s impossible to know”.

The Tánaiste said: “Prices are very volatile at the moment and you’ll know from the latest numbers that the prices of groceries have gone up by 11% and that’s very tough on a lot of families having to find extra money just to buy the same amount of groceries.

“I think we’ve had a period of cheap food and we’ve had period of very low interest rates and that’s going to change.

"Interest rates are rising, food prices are rising and energy prices are rising and it would be a mistake to assume that things will just go back to the way they were and that’s why we need to help people with their bills.”

First time to increase

Also speaking on food price increases at the Ploughing, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said: “It really is the first time in many, many years that we have actually seen food price inflation, because, for many years, we’ve seen general society costs going up, prices going up, but food prices have remained static.

“There needs to be an increasing recognition of primary producers, the role they play and the need to get a fair income. It is important that that is recognised.”

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue speaking during the Irish Farmers Journal breakfast briefing at the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, Co Laois. \ Donal O' Leary

The Minister described it, as increases in farmgate prices have been “crucial because of the real cost pressures that are there”.

“I think when you look at the wider backdrop in relation to a growing world population, but also because of the climate challenge, it’s challenging to produce food in many parts of the world. I think that role of food production and the value that’s on food is increasingly recognised,” the Minister said.

Grocery price increase

Also speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal on food prices, Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson Matt Carthy TD said that while we “can’t have a situation where farmers are selling below the cost of producing”, Sinn Féin also wouldn’t advocate for an increase in grocery prices.

Sinn Féin's agricultural spokesperson, Matt Carthy TD. \ Philip Doyle

He said there are a number of ways to prevent farmers from having to sell below the cost of production, such as seeking a better CAP strategy and being “mindful to the roll of supermarkets in using food as loss leaders”.

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