Minister Simon Coveney is still in denial on the problems facing the milk sector and the problems surrounding the falling prices being offered to farmers. During the week Minister Coveney said that this was only a temporary problem but that is not much use to the farmers who are losing money, having borrowed heavily to invest in the milk business and that is something that I have warned against in the past. I am aware of people who are working for the big co-ops who are going around to farmers getting them to sign up the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme. One farmer who spoke to me this week and who has a very neat and top class operation, was told that he would have to spend up to 10,000 Euro in order to comply with the scheme.
At the price that they are offering farmers for milk at the moment, the co-ops should pull back on their deadlines for compliance with the Quality Assurance Scheme. Farmers simply cannot afford the extra expense with the derisory price that they are getting for their produce at the moment. It is ironic that the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme in the beef sector has not made any positive difference at all with regard to labelling of Irish beef in the UK and in Northern Ireland. I fear that this latest Quality Assurance Scheme is another huge expense on farmers with no net gain for them.
We are tying ourselves up in red tape more and more, and it is resulting in more and more expense for the farmers. It is my view that the family farms around the country are under increasing pressure to survive while the big businesses like the co-ops are getting bigger and bigger. If this current trend is not stopped then many family farms and the wider communities in Rural Ireland will under serious threat.