In an attempt to deal with low prices for beef, the European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture that he intends to find new markets for produce and a programme of promotion.

Hogan said that we “need to raise awareness of the high quality and sustainability of European agriculture, including the unique, extensive livestock sector in Europe.

“For that reason, I intend to also include a targeted promotion programme with a budget of €15m, aimed at increasing the awareness among the general public in the EU of the value of sustainable agriculture and the role of agriculture in terms of climate action, from which livestock will also stand to benefit.”

He said finding new markets is key to improve price conditions in the livestock sector.

“I will travel to Turkey very shortly to help increase access to that market for the live exports trade.

“I have in fact undertaken, as you are aware, a diplomatic offensive to help unlock new markets and grow exports for our farmers – I have visited Mexico, Colombia, China and Japan and will also visit Vietnam and Indonesia next month.”

Also on the agenda is an external promotion programme for 2017 valued at €4m which will focus on beef, dairy and pigmeat exports to third country markets.

Milk production reduction scheme

Hogan seems pleased with the uptake of the milk production reduction scheme.

“The scheme has proven to be very attractive and the high level of participation is a clear indication of the appetite that there is for such a scheme,” Hogan said. “Indeed, in percentage terms, Ireland is the Member State with the highest participation rate among milk producers at 24%.”

The chair of the committee, Pat Deering, asked if this scheme will be made mandatory. Hogan replied: “No, there will be no return to quotas”.

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