The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has welcomed Belgium’s initial indication of the direction it intends to take EU agri-food policies during its leadership of the Council of the European Union.

Belgium will hold the presidency until the end of June, having taken over from the Spanish presidency on 1 January.

The farming organisation is taking the Belgians’ assertion that there will be “specific attention to our food production autonomy” as meaning that a dampener will be put on moves towards an EU-Mercosur free trade deal.

The new presidency’s work programme also states that it will seek to “promote the reduction of the EU’s dependency on third countries for certain strategic resources”.

Greater clarity

ICMSA president Dennis Drennan called on Irish policymakers to read the programme, claiming it has greater clarity than the State’s own policies on farming and trade.

“Any farmers that read the Belgian programme will be encouraged and we’d certainly recommend that Irish policymakers made themselves familiar with the context that the Belgians establish – it seems a great deal more coherent than anything we have come up with in this State,” Drennan said.

“It’s very noticeable how the Belgian document sets out bluntly that the ‘costs, benefits and risks’ of transitioning to a sustainable food system should be shared across the food chain, ensuring, in their words, that farmers are ‘fairly compensated’ for their sustainability efforts and receive social recognition.”

A clear recognition of the costs of climate action and the need for environmental costs to be covered has not been made by any senior figures in Government, the farm leader concluded.