The market is not returning for those who produce food in Europe, Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) president Dennis Drennan said at a European People's Party (EPP) conference on the future of agriculture on Friday in Carlow.

The standard of producing food in Europe is getting higher and European farmers are not on a level playing field when it comes to the world market, Drennan said.

This, Drennan said, is compounded by the fact that the emphasis on food production and supporting the production of food is no longer there under the current CAP.

"CAP has gone away from being a food security policy to being public good and it has now gone into an environmental policy, but in the meantime, the market is not returning for the people who produce the most important element in our lives, which is food," he said.


The CAP budget, he argued, has been spread too thinly.

"It has gone from west to east and gone from the most productive areas in Europe to some of the least productive areas in Europe," Drennan maintained.

A "mature debate" needs to happen on where the best parts of the world are to produce the best quality of food sustainably, Drennan added.

"We don't try [to] grow bananas in Ireland - for an obvious reason. We grow grass and we turn that grass into meat and dairy, we grow cereals because our climate suits.

"I think they are decisions to be made - we either want cheap food or we want sustainable food and I don't think they're compatible," he said.

Environmentally-friendly food, he argued, has to come at a cost, which can be borne by farmers only.

"The people who get up in the morning and go do their work, whether it be out ploughing their fields or milking their cows, they have to be economically sustainable," he said.

The family farming model in Ireland and right across Europe is under serious threat, he added.

"We have a load of people who produce nothing trying to regulate people who produce the most important thing in all our lives - food. They want to regulate us out of existence.

"In Ireland, we've [got] probably the most sustainable system of producing beef, dairy, lamb and cereals in the world, yet we've NGOs and environmental groups who want us gone, who want livestock farming to end in the country," he said.