Sinn Féin has raised concerns about how technological change could make starting an agricultural enterprise too costly for small and younger farmers in Ireland.

During a debate in the European Parliament on the future of farming, Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus said he was concerned advances in technology will lead to a two-speed transition.

“There’ll be those who can afford the technology with the expertise to operate it and those that don’t, thus creating an ever-widening gap between those competing to produce the majority of our food,” MacManus said.

Entry barriers

During the debate, the MEP questioned where funding for technological advancement will be derived from.

“In every CAP transition, the budget shrinks, which means the likelihood of substantial grants to help farmers access these technologies is only getting smaller,” MacManus continued.

“This means young farmers are going to be forced into drawing down loans to the tune of tens if not hundreds of thousands of euro.

“A lack of access to credit for such technology will likely rival, if not overtake, access to land as the biggest barrier to entering the agri sector.

“The simple reason for this is that banks are much more willing to loan money for land purchase, as opposed to purchase of technology, which only depreciates in value as time goes on.”

Secured future

Sinn Féin has said it fears that the food production industry will become only open to cash-rich multinationals, citing how Amazon has created supermarkets employing almost zero workers.

“I believe in a sustainable future for Irish farmers, striking the balance between quality food production and the restoration of biodiversity,” MacManus said.

“The only way to pursue this is by rejecting the notion that high yields or export numbers are the only important measure of a valuable sector.

“I prefer to measure our success in terms of do we have fair farming incomes, a secured future for young farmers, thriving rural communities and rich and restored landscapes.”