Thursday, July 13, 2006

End of the Beetniks

The farmers are revolting - again. This time it’s over the level of compensation paid to them for the demise of the sugar industry and, more specifically, those farmers involved in growing sugar beet.

The writing has been on the wall for this industry for years now, if not decades. But as with all things in the “field of agriculture”, it seems that nothing could be done to avoid the inevitable slow-motion car crash.

Farmers, their representative organisations and the Government have been pushing ever inexorably further up the industry cul-de-sac that has been evident to even a blind man for decades.

The approach has been to pursue the maximum level of EU subsidy in order to keep producing uneconomic food which could never be sold at a price which would recover the real cost of production. Almost nothing has been done to encourage diversification, innovation etc..

This approach has continued to the point where the subsidy is now paid regardless of whether the farmer is producing any food at all. This would be categorised as “welfare” in any other category of our society.

Thus Irish farmers have been involved in farm enterprise activities which, in the vast majority of cases, simply cannot compete with large scale producers in Europe, the USA & South America.

This doomsday strategy has been compounded by the greed of farmers who sold their ownership of the Co-ops and thus reduced themselves to the role of producers of raw materials only, removed from the ability to benefit from the added value activities in which the Co-ops are involved.

Now many farmers make their money selling sites at extravagant prices, but there seems to be little prospect of a viable farming enterprise for most of them.

It’s a pity, but frankly it’s hard to feel sorry for them.

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