The European Commission has agreed a €50 million exceptional aid fund for Irish beef farmers.

The money is to compensate farmers for the fall in beef prices suffered as a result of Brexit.

The Government will be allowed to top-up the fund to bring the total amount to €100m.

The Irish Farmers' Association had complained that some of its members were facing financial ruin on foot of what they said was a horrendous loss of €101m suffered by beef farmers due to Brexit- related uncertainties, changes to the value of sterling, and price cuts since the Brexit vote.

The European Commission examined the case and agreed that Brexit has indeed caused a substantial market disturbance for beef farmers in Ireland that exceptional aid is justified.

European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan says he expects the €50m in EU assistance will be topped up to €100m by the Government to fully compensate the farmers.

The full details of how the fund will be operated will be finalised as a matter of urgency between his own officials and those at the Department of Agriculture .

The commissioner said the timing of the announcement was not linked to the Local and European elections.

He said there are ten national elections in the European Union, three presidential elections, as well the European Parliament elections and if the commission had to wait for a time with no elections they would never make any announcements or any decisions.


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He said the fund is a recognition of the particular difficulty that Irish beef farmers have experienced due to events beyond their control and that the European Commission concluded that the sector needed an immediate response.

The financial support for Irish farmers is an emergency measure provided for in the Common Market Organisation Regulation, under the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy.

It is similar to other measures taken by the European Commission in response to other specific problems, whether arising from the introduction of the Russian ban or particular difficulties in the European diary sector in recent years.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also rejected suggestions around the timing of the aid package to beef farmers.

"If we could have got it over the line a few weeks ago, we would have been very happy with that", he said.

IFA President Joe Healy said every advantage must be used to ensure the agriculture industry is protected.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Healy said the IFA has been pushing for this for some time.

"We know there's an election, and you use every advantage you can to ensure you safeguard an industry that's worth €3 billion to Ireland. We're always lobbying, it just so happened that this coincided with an election. We're a lobby organisation, we make no apologies for that."

He said the agriculture sector has suffered more than others due to Brexit, and that the anger from farmers who have seen beef prices fall is "palpable".

"There was anger, frustration and despair. We've highlighted the losses that farmers have incurred since the onset of Brexit, because no country has been as badly affected as Ireland since the Brexit referendum, and no sector as badly as agriculture."

Mr Healy said that although Brexit has not yet happened, it was the uncertainty surrounding the situation that was causing problems.

He said Ireland exports 90% of its beef, and 52% of that goes to the UK and any uncertainty around currency can have an effect.

He said now that they have the fund, they need to ensure that it is paid out to farmers as quickly as possible and with as little red tape as possible.