[Sinn Fein]

19th March 2003

Sinn Fein call for united farming voice in Europe

Sinn Fein Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Gerry McHugh has said that that the failure to deliver a united voice for Irish farmers in Europe is damaging to the future of Irish farming and fishing.

Mr McHugh said:

"The current Mid Term review of CAP is more like an earthquake than a review. If the stakeholders in Irish farming, on both sides of the border, do not begin to work much closer together then there is a very real possibility that what happened to Irish fishing in 1977 will be repeated in the agricultural industry.

"We need all the stakeholders to work together in Europe to challenge the real agenda behind the massive proposed changes in European Agriculture policy. Do farmers here face the absolute destruction of the farming industry as we know it and the prospect of no future for the high quality clean green image that our industry deserves.

"The industry needs to challenge the a policy of food procurement that is based solely on lowest cost with no effective regard for quality and food safety. This will lead us into a third world farming situation that will see the proliferation of poor working conditions for farmers and farm workers, low safety standards, poorer quality produce and carries the potential of increasing risks being taken with food safety in pursuit of low costs.

"Sinn Fein is going to lead a delegation to Europe in early April to put the case for Irish farming to be treated equally and to press the case for a future for the Irish agricultural industry.

"In building the case for the benefits of breaking the link wit UK farming policy and building a united Irish agriculture industry I would urge farmers in the north to examine the implications of the ending of the OTMS. The clear implication is that it will be harder for northern farmers to sell produce on the open market that is labelled with a UK tag because of the poor image of the UK beef industry. A localised tag that promotes our rationalised performance or even and Irish tag would stamp our produce with the clean green image that has been successfully developed in the south."

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