Sinn Féin has called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to utilise the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund to support sheep farmers before the fund ceases.
The party’s spokesperson on agriculture Claire Kerrane TD insisted that Minister McConalogue must meet with the organisations representing sheep farmers to establish how they can draw from the reserve.
When asked previously, Deputy Kerrane said that the Minister stated that the Department of Agriculture could not find a link to demonstrate how Brexit has affected the Irish sheep sector, which is required to make use of the reserve fund.
However, she highlighted that farming organisations representing sheep farmers have since been clear about the impact Brexit has had and the serious need for supports for the sector.
“I am again calling on Minister McConalogue to review how the BAR can be used to provide much-needed supports to Irish sheep farmers,” she said.
The Sinn Féin TD highlighted the view of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) on the impact Brexit has had on the sheep sector and the “crisis” that sheep farmers continue to face.
“They stated that Britain’s new post-Brexit trade deal with New Zealand and the increase in imports from New Zealand will add a potential further 35,000t under a tariff rate quota.
“They also pointed out that Irish sheep farmers are at a competitive disadvantage with British farmers on important EU markets, such as France, when it comes to sheepmeat exports.
“Considering this, I find it difficult to believe that no link to the impact that Brexit has had on the sheep sector can be established. We are hearing from sheep farmers themselves about the dire situation they are facing which is, in part, compounded by these Brexit-related factors,” she said.
Deputy Kerrane warned that Minister McConalogue “appears indifferent to the very obvious implications of Brexit on the sheep sector” and called on him to take on board the insights of sheep farmer representatives in order to establish a case for using the BAR to provide crucial supports.
“A PQ [parliamentary question] response I received last week indicated that the BAR will be in place until the end of this year, before being transferred over to the [EU]. That means there is three months to make use of BAR funding to support the sheep sector.
“We know the sheep sector is facing a crisis and action must be taken to support sheep farmers. I am calling on the Minister to do everything he can to ensure those much-needed supports are delivered and to do so via BAR rather than sending unspent money for agriculture back to Europe,” she said.