The costs of doing business threaten to wipe out modest gains in 2021 with Irish farming facing a very challenging year, IFA president Tim Cullinan has said.

Cullinan said that family farms could be overwhelmed by the steep increases in costs such as feed, energy and fertiliser.

Input costs had risen by 15% (CSO) already in 2021, but the signs for 2022 are hugely concerning, he added.

Tim Cullinan said he hoped the new year would bring a more mature and positive discussion on climate action.

“As farmers, we continue to produce high-quality, safe and nutritious food. While a vocal minority has been attempting to vilify farmers, the vast majority of people support Irish farming and are proud of our countryside and the food produced by Irish farmers,” he said.

Overall, the IFA president said farm families are fearful that their incomes are being sacrificed without a clear plan for the sector at farm level.

“We need real engagement with the Government to devise a properly funded climate plan that strikes the right balance between environmental, economic and social sustainability. This will be our focus in 2022,” he said.

“Policymakers here and in Brussels have to recognise that while farmers are willing to undertake more environmental actions, their incomes must be protected,” he said.

Cullinan said that the Irish CAP strategic plan that has been approved by the Government and sent to Brussels will put more costs on productive farmers, while their supports are being undermined by policy decisions and inflation.

“Policymakers are not putting sufficient value on food production and our retailers continue to undermine the value of our produce by using it as a loss leader.

“This is not sustainable and I believe those in power will come to regret this short-sighted move, which encourages farmers to produce less. Our global population is increasing and the world will need more food, not less,” he said.

The Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue must honour his commitment on bringing in primary legislation for a food regulator to ensure farmers get a fair price for their produce.

Tim Cullinan said the surge in COVID-19 cases was a concern for the sector. In addition to the implications for human health, it also poses a challenge for the efficient functioning of the sector.

“Our farmers, and those working in the food sector, have worked hard to keep the food chain operating, but everybody will be very stretched as case numbers soar due to the Omicron variant,” he said.

“It’s important that everybody heeds the public health advice and stays safe in the coming weeks.” he said.

“2021 also saw a reduction in the number of farm fatalities, although it’s still far too high. We need to continue to do all we can to ensure there’s an improvement in 2022,” he said.