The Government has approved a €50m support package for beef farmers who have experienced significant difficulty arising from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sector has been calling for assistance and today Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed announced Cabinet approval for the allocation of €50m to provide for a support scheme for beef finishing farms.

Beef farming is not a profitable business.

The beef blockades last year were borne out of frustration as farmers, who are being paid less than break-even prices for their cattle, took to the streets and the factory gates to voice their anger.

Last year a €100m scheme called BEAM provided some support for beef farmers, but its conditions were widely criticised as being too stringent.

Today, Minister Creed said: "I am acutely aware of the ongoing market disturbance related to Covid-19 in the Irish beef sector and the significant consequences for beef farmers and for the rural economy as a whole.

"Farmers with finished animals have suffered a dual impact over recent months: reduced prices and a reduced kill.

"This support for the beef sector is an emergency response to a dramatic economic shock, to mitigate the worst Covid-19 economic impacts on these farm enterprises."

The scheme will be fully funded by the Exchequer and will not contain any EU funding, which will give greater flexibility in how it is structured.

Beef prices have been struggling. Despite a huge increase in home cooking, the closure of the food service sector both here and in Europe for many months has impacted price.

Minister Creed also announced that a meeting of the Beef Taskforce is planned for the end of June, to take place by video conference in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

IFA President Tim Cullinan welcomed the development saying: "The details of the scheme and the small print will be very important. IFA is set to meet with the Department of Agriculture next Monday to progress the scheme details further.

"IFA made detailed submissions to Government outlining the strong case for a direct payment support package and our officers around the country have worked hard lobbying politicians," he said.

"This new package, along with the recent €35m BEEP-S scheme secured for suckler cows is badly needed."