An EU budget for the fifties not the future

This was the reaction of Swedish EU affairs minister Birgitta Ohlsson to the publication yesterday of the Cypriot Presidency’s revised proposal for the next EU multi-annual financial framework (MFF) covering the period 2014-2020. This is because it proposed big cuts in research and cross-border infrastructure while largely protecting the CAP budget in line with the Commission’s proposal.

The Commission has proposed a trillion euro budget (actually €1,091,551 million for EU-28 including off budget items) for the seven-year period which, depending on how the comparison is made, is seen as representing a 5% real increase in the resources available to the EU. The European Parliament, never shy about spending other people’s money, considers this a minimum amount and would prefer a higher increase. In the other arm of the budget authority, the Council of Ministers, opinions are split. The net recipients, grouped in the ‘Friends of Cohesion’ group, support the Commission proposal. The net payers, which form the ‘Friends of Better Spending’ group, want to rein back the Commission proposal to a real freeze in resources or even more. But there are differences within this group over whether the cuts should fall on the CAP or cohesion budgets (both of which are roughly 40% of the total) or on the remaining headings which account for just 20%. Not surprisingly, both the Commission and the Parliament’s Budget Committee reacted caustically to the Presidency proposal yesterday.

The Cyprus Presidency proposal explicitly sets out the implications of how a reduction in €50 billion might be made, while recognising that in the negotiating endgame further cuts will be required. The following graphic shows how it proposes the cuts should be made (all changes relative to the Commission’s revised MFF proposal in July 2012). Further details on the makeup of these figures can be found in this post.

The protection of farm spending in the EU budget emerges clearly from these figures. While in the short-run the Irish authorities will be pleased with this outcome (even if they will not state this in public, we are negotiating after all), it is worth asking whether our longer-term interests would not be better served by a budget for Europe rather than a budget for farmers.

Prospects for the agricultural sector

Those interested in the fortunes of the real economy, and specifically the agricultural sector, might find my assessment of the prospects for farming in the current issue of eolas of interest. The editorial tagline does a good job of summarising its gist.

The agricultural sector is recovering. However, dependence on direct payments, climate change [targets] and ageing farmers are potential problems.

By the way, there are many other interesting articles in the magazine, its well worth a read.

Prospects for the agri-food sector in 2012

Teagasc economists have just released their Situation and Outlook Report for the Irish primary agriculture sector for 2012 (proceedings here and presentations here). In 2011 there was a significant and welcome recovery in farm incomes (up 33% over 2010) although this was entirely due to higher prices and higher subsidies – the volume of agricultural output (at basic prices) remained unchanged despite slightly higher volume consumption of intermediate inputs.

The Teagasc view is that the value of gross output in agriculture will fall back slightly in 2012, due to a combination of lower production in some sectors and lower prices in others. There will be some savings on input costs, but lower subsidies in 2012 (due to a carryover of payments in 2011) means that operating surplus in agriculture is expected to fall by 12%.

Continue reading “Prospects for the agri-food sector in 2012”

Commission publishes MFF budget proposals

The Commission’s proposals for the EU budget’s next Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014-2020 can be found here. Judged against the parameters I proposed to evaluate the MFF proposal from an Irish perspective, then the proposal is as good as we could have hoped for. RTE reported that “The Government has given a cautious response to the European Commission’s proposed 2014 to 2020 budget” which, given that this is the start of a difficult set of negotiations, is about as close to saying “we are delighted” as you are likely to get.
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Commission proposals for the next EU budget Multi-annual Financial Framework to be published this week

On Wednesday (June 29th) the Commission is scheduled to reveal its proposals for the next Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) which will set out the scale and composition as well as the proposed financing of the EU budget over the period to 2020. However, some reports suggest that Commission President Barroso is putting aside two days for the Commission College to agree the proposal so it may be later in the week before it sees the light of day. This is an important issue for Ireland, and this post discusses the issues to watch for in the Commission’s proposal.

Continue reading “Commission proposals for the next EU budget Multi-annual Financial Framework to be published this week”

Rising food prices and farm incomes

Aideen Sheehan has a piece on food prices in today’s Irish Independent reporting that prices of some popular branded foods have risen by 7% over the past 8 months compared to prices in a survey conducted by the National Consumer Agency last summer. However, the real story in recent months has been the remarkable stability in food prices despite soaring commodity prices on world markets.

Continue reading “Rising food prices and farm incomes”

More on sectoral financial balances

David McWilliams discusses the Irish version of the ‘Gavyn Davies’ sector financial balances graph in the Irish Independent today. He makes two points. The first is to highlight the restoration of the foreign sector balance in recent years, which he interprets as meaning that, absent the banking crisis, the government would not have needed to seek EU/IMF funding given the availability of sufficient domestic savings to fund the government deficit.

His second point is that the chart shows that austerity will not work because, if the private sector keeps saving, then either the government deficit remains high (as a result of a further contraction of the economy) or there is a build up in the current account surplus on the balance of payments, which he also sees as undesirable because it means that “we will export capital to the rest of the world for them to use, while projects in Ireland are starved of capital”.

While the first point may be true in the sense that the state would not have faced the downgrade on its sovereign debt in the absence of the banking crisis, I think the second conclusion is wrong. Continue reading “More on sectoral financial balances”

2009 data on household living conditions published

The CSO has just released the 2009 results of its annual Survey of Income and Living Conditions. SILC is the official source of data on household and individual income and also provides a number of key national poverty indicators, such as the at risk of poverty rate, the consistent poverty rate and rates of enforced deprivation. The accompanying press release highlights a number of the key findings.

Continue reading “2009 data on household living conditions published”

Could the Irish sugar industry have been saved?

I have been amazed by the media spin put on the European Court of Auditors’ report into the implementation of the EU’s sugar regime reform in 2006. This reform resulted in Greencore deciding to close the only remaining Irish sugar factory in Mallow, thus signalling the end of beet-growing in this country. The reform cut the price of sugar beet by 36% while removing 30% of the EU sugar production quota over a four year period. It is simply not credible to suggest that the Irish industry could have survived in this new environnment.
Continue reading “Could the Irish sugar industry have been saved?”

Oireachtas Committee report on Agri Food Sector

A couple of weeks ago the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Innovation released a report on increasing employment opportunities in the Agro-Food sector, prepared on the basis of a rapporteur’s report by Arthur Morgan, T.D. The report was prepared before the release of the Food Harvest 2020 report by the Department of Agriculture and Food in August this year, but it provides a useful comparative perspective. As befits this Oireachtas Committee, the focus is more on the food industry than on primary agriculture. The issues raised were informed by a survey of agri-food enterprises which the Committee conducted.

Some of the Committee’s recommendations are a bit off the wall, such as the proposal for an all-Ireland Economic Committee of parliamentarians to agree on the convergence of Corporation Tax, Excise and VAT rates in both jurisdictions. It dismisses the importance of flexibility in wage rates despite recognising that the food industry, in particular, is very exposed to exchange rate fluctuations given its dependence on the UK market. However, three of its recommendations are worth highlighting. Continue reading “Oireachtas Committee report on Agri Food Sector”

Should Ireland declare itself GM-free in food production?

One of the pledges in the October 2009 Revised Programme for Government is to declare Ireland a GM-free zone. The Programme promises to “declare the Republic of Ireland a GM-Free Zone, free from the cultivation of all GM plants”, and states “To optimise Ireland’s competitive advantage as a GM-Free country, we will introduce a voluntary GM-Free logo for use in all relevant product labelling and advertising, similar to a scheme recently introduced in Germany.” This followed the commitment in the 2007 Programme for Government that “the Government will seek to negotiate the establishment of an all-Ireland GMO-free [crop] zone.”

The issue has become topical because of a proposed change in EU legislation which would allow individual Member States to permit the cultivation of  GM crops or not. The idea is to combine a European Union authorisation system for GMOs, based on science, with freedom for Member States to decide whether or not they wish to cultivate GM crops on their territory. Any such prohibitions or restrictions would have to be based on grounds other than those covered by the environmental and health risk assessment under the EU authorisation system. It is expected that the new legislation will enter into force by the end of this year.

Yesterday’s Irish Times reported that the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association has called on the government to immediately implement the Programme for Government pledge. Would it make sense to do so? Continue reading “Should Ireland declare itself GM-free in food production?”

National Consumer Agency report on grocery prices

Details of the latest NCA report on grocery prices here. Highlights include the fact that the prices of branded grocery products fell by 14% between between January 2009 and July 2010, the fact that there is almost no difference in the cost of a basket of branded grocery goods between the four main retailers (including SuperValu) and the fact that price competition in the Irish grocery market mainly takes the form of promotions and special offers and by juggling small price changes on specific items.

Six stores were visited, but because the multiples (though not SuperValu) operate a policy of national pricing, prices in any one store are representative for the group as a whole. The data collected is made available in an accompanying spreadsheet, although the link did not appear to be working when I accessed it this morning. The discounters Aldi and Lidl were not included in the survey. Conor Pope in his analysis piece on the survey in the Irish Times today suggests that retailers may be able to `play´ the survey by keeping prices low on the items likely to be included while giving prices free rein on less common items.

The NCA Chief Executive Ann Fitzgerald says that the findings suggest that competitive pricing is still not a feature of the Irish grocery market and to address this there is a real need for a new entrant to the market to offer consumers a real alternative. According to Paul Cullen’s report in the Irish Times, she called for a removal of the cap on the size of retail units under planning regulations, claiming this would stimulate competition by encouraging a big overseas retailer to come to Ireland.

In a variant of the glass half-full argument, one might argue that similar prices are actually a sign of a very competitive market and emphasise more the fall of 14% in prices of branded goods over the past 18 months. However, the previous discussion on this blog regarding Ireland’s high food prices in an  EU context suggests that Ann Fitzgerald has a point.

Good news on the farm

Teagasc colleagues have produced their mid-year assessment of the likely outturn for output and incomes in Irish agriculture in 2010. The main message is that there is a solid recovery in gross margins in dairy and cereals from the awful year in 2009 and also a positive outlook for sheep (helped by the recent announcement of support under the new Grassland Sheep Scheme), but no change is expected on cattle farms where low or negative profitability will continue.  Overall, the Teagasc assessment is that both total agricultural output and incomes should increase by around €300 million this year, which will be an increase of 18% on the operating surplus in agriculture in 2009. Continue reading “Good news on the farm”

Forestry policy and climate targets

With the publication of the heads of the promised climate change bill now imminent, it is interesting to note that two Oireachtas Comittees, the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security and the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, have just published a report on the role of forests in future EU climate policy. The paper was written in the context of the Committees’ role in responding to EU proposals, in this case an EU Commission Green Paper on Protecting Forests against Climate Change.

The report raises some important issues on the treatment of carbon sequestration by forests in the context of EU climate policy, where arguably Irish interests differ from the rest of the EU. Although its conclusions need further discussion, the report is a good example of how the Oireachtas can contribute to public debate and for this reason alone it should be welcomed. For the record, Andrew Doyle T.D. (FG)  was the rapporteur for both committees and he was assisted in preparing the report by EPS Consulting (formerly A&L Goodbody Consulting).

Continue reading “Forestry policy and climate targets”

Ireland’s trade performance

Floyd Norris in the New York Times last weekend put together some interesting comparative charts for twelve countries including Ireland showing trends in their trade up to the beginning of this year. The relatively small dip in Irish exports during the recession comes through clearly. He draws attention to the welcome rebound in trade globally, but classes Ireland among the four Euro laggards including Greece, Portugal and Spain. However, the data for Ireland only go to the end of 2009, whereas for other countries the data includes the first three months of 2010. As all of the rebound in the other countries has occurred in this first quarter of 2010, the charts give an unfavourable, but misleading, impression of Ireland’s comparative trade performance.

Globalised Ireland

The Irish Times and other media today carried a report on the publication of a new globalisation index produced by Ernst & Young which places Ireland third on the globalised states list. The EY index joins an increasingly crowded field, so what follows is a bluffer’s guide to globalisation indices. As always, a good starting point (but never more than that) is the relevant Wikipedia entry.
Continue reading “Globalised Ireland”

2009 Trade Statistics

The Irish Exporters’ Association has just published its end year review for 2009. It has some useful tables showing the sectoral and destination breakdown of both merchandise and services exports – the latter are now 44% of the total. The overall picture is well known, but some of the details are revealing. While overall exports (merchandise + services) fell by just 1%, the declines were 9% for the indigenous sector, 14% for food and 21% for drink. The IEA itself concludes that when the Life Sciences sector is excluded, exports fell by €6.1 billion making it one of the worst years on record for traditional Irish manufacturers selling on export markets. It foresees 2% growth in exports next year, with most of this coming from the services sector.

Dismal outturn in 2009 for Irish agriculture

While attention today is understandably fixed on tomorrow’s budget, it is important not to forget what is happening in the real economy. The advance estimate of the value of farm output and income in 2009 published yesterday by the CSO underscores the severe impact which the drop in milk prices has had on farm output and incomes in the current year, although a dramatic drop in the volume of cereals produced as well as a continuing decline in sheep production also contributed to the dismal result.

Overall, the value of agricultural output at market prices fell by 18.9%. This includes a fall in the value of milk production of 34.8% and in cereals production of 52.1%, while the value of cattle production fell by 10.7% and pig output by 12.6%. Continue reading “Dismal outturn in 2009 for Irish agriculture”

The debate on the EU budget after 2013 gets underway

A draft Commission communication on reform of the EU budget has been widely leaked yesterday. The full communication is expected to be published next month in response to the consultation exercise on the EU budget which was mandated as part of the Inter-Institutional Agreement in May 2006 on the EU medium-term financial framework (MFF) for the 2007-2013 period. It is not, in itself, a proposal for the next MFF to start in 2014 which will be the prerogative of the new Commission when it takes up office at the start of next year, and which will not be presented until the first half of 2011. Nonetheless, the forthcoming communication sets out the choices facing Member States as they prepare for these negotiations in a clear fashion.

I discussed some of these choices in my paper to the recent ESRI/FFS Annual Budget Perspectives conference. On the expenditure side, the make-up of EU budget expenditure in 2013 will be roughly one-third for CAP income and market support measures, one third for cohesion policy, and one-third for everything else – rural development, research and external actions being the most important.

There is broad support for shifting the composition of budget expenditure towards meeting some of the global challenges facing the EU, including addressing issues of energy security, climate change, competitiveness, migration and projecting a more ambitious global European presence. The key principle is that budget spending should only be undertaken where it can be shown that there is a clear European value added over national spending. Continue reading “The debate on the EU budget after 2013 gets underway”

Bob Holton lecture on globalisation

Professor Robert Holton, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin will give a lecture at 7 pm in Trinity College tonight which may be of interest to readers of this blog entitled “Is globalisation reversible?” as part of the Institute for International Integration Studies Public Lecture series. Details can be found here.

A left view of the economic crisis

Michael Burke has an analysis of the nature of Ireland’s economic crisis in the Socialist Economic Bulletin which is a blog published by Ken Livingstone. His account of how we got into our economic crisis is by and large a coherent one (an unfortunate typo suggesting that NAMA proposes to pay €54bn for assets worth €77bn notwithstanding) although one can quibble with some of his judgements. For example, his claim that the April 2009 budget was regressive is not supported by the results reported by Tim Callan using the ESRI tax-benefit model on this blog. One point he highlights to which I had seen little reference before is the implication of the collapse in domestic asset values for our net external debt position, given that much of this borrowing was financed by foreign bondholders.

In contrast to the detailed analysis of past history, his proposals for responding to the crisis are little more than sketched out and are thus less convincing. Competitiveness is not seen as a problem despite his clear analysis that a big contribution to our current trade surplus is the collapse in imports of investment goods and that our relatively good export performance is heavily influenced by the special circumstances of the dominant chemicals sector. One proposal is to delay fiscal adjustment because of its deflationary consequences (a demand already being made by the trade union movement). Another is to “take control” of leading property and construction companies presumably in order to restore economic activity in construction, although why this would make sense given the substantial over-capacity that exists in both residential and commercial property is not clear. He also proposes nationalisation of the banks and repudiation of some or all of their accumulated debts, policies which have been debated and which have found some support on this blog.

The economics of the Lisbon vote

In this post, I want to raise the economic consequences of the vote on the Lisbon Treaty on October 2nd, not the economic consequences of the Lisbon Treaty itself. The post is prompted by my amazement at hearing the comments of Professor Ray Kinsella of the Smurfit Business School when debating the economic consequences of a No vote with Pramit Ghose of Bloxham on Morning Ireland this morning.

Ghose argued that the financial markets will exact a price if there is No vote on October 2nd. Noting that 80% of Ireland’s debt is owned by international investors, he argued that a No vote would raise uncertainty for these investors who would consequently seek an extra premium for lending to Ireland. Going back to the experience in January–February earlier this year when Anglo-Irish bank was nationalised, he suggested that this premium could be an extra 1% on the borrowing rate the Irish government would have to pay.

This view of an adverse financial fallout from a No vote was disputed by Ray Kinsella, essentially on the basis of efficient market theory. His argument essentially is that the markets are already pricing in the possibility of Ireland saying No, so that if we actually say No, there will be no effect on the premium paid over German Bunds. As evidence for this, he noted that the yield premium over Bunds has been narrowing in recent months, again underlining the complacency with which the markets are viewing a No vote.

Now, Ray Kinsella went on to say that he did not think that the Treaty was good for either Ireland or Europe, so presumably he will be a No voter himself. But, from where I sit, there is a big difference between factoring in the probability of a No vote and the actual reality of a No vote. If markets are reading the opinion polls, they might assess the probability at, say, 40%. If voters do reject the Treaty, the probability ex post is 100%. This is surely not an insignificant difference.

More generally, I was interested to learn that there are economists prominent in public debate who are advocating a No vote on 2nd October. This seems to fly in the face of the Indecon survey which reported that Ireland’s economists are strongly in favour of a Yes vote, though their survey was confined to academic and research institute economists and specifically excluded economists working in the media and banks or other financial institutions. Their findings indicate that 91% of the economists surveyed believed that, taking all factors into account, Ireland’s overall economic interests would be best served by a ‘Yes’ vote.

As I was on holiday at the time, I did not respond to the Indecon survey, but I am a strong supporter of a Yes vote on October 2nd. Perhaps, given the understandable attention to NAMA in these posts over recent weeks, we have not given enough attention to debating the issues at stake in the Lisbon Treaty referendum. Although I want to confine this thread to what readers think is riding on the outcome of the referendum for the economy, if demand is there a thread could be opened on the economic implications of the Treaty provisions themselves. While financial markets are one channel whereby the referendum vote will affect the economy, there are clearly other channels as well, including foreign investment inflows as was highlighted at the benefit bash in Farmleigh over the weekend.

Certainly, Ray Kinsella’s comments were a wake-up call for me that Yes supporters can leave nothing to chance for referendum day.

Stiglitz report on measuring economic progress

The report of the high-powered Commission on the Measurement of Economic Progress and Social Performance set up by President Sarkozy and chaired by Joe Stiglitz and with a stellar cast of economists amongst its members was published today. President Sarkozy has promised to follow the report by measuring well-being as well as gross domestic product. The full report does not appear to be available yet on the Commission’s website, [Update:  link is now available]. For a flavour of the issues raised in the report, see Stiglitz’s commentary on the GDP fetish.

Agri-Aware survey of food industry performance and prospects

Agri-Aware, a body set up by organisations in the farm and food industries to improve the image and understanding of agriculture and the food sector in Ireland, has just issued a report The Agriculture and Food Industry – Bigger, Brighter, Tougher prepared by Jim Power of Friends First. The report examines data on the employment performance of the food industry during the past twelve months as well as surveying the opinions of industry managers on the main challenges they face over the next 12 months as well as their views on prospects for the coming 5 years.

Unfortunately, the main finding that the report itself highlights – that one in seven jobs in Ireland are dependent on the agriculture and food industries – appears to be based on a flawed analysis of the survey data. No one would deny that the agri-food sector has a hugely important role to play in helping to turn the real economy round, and there is no doubt that it faces real challenges, as usefully documented in this report. But the attempt to puff the industry up into playing a bigger role than it actually does is simply part of the special interest pleading we see so much of in the run-up to the next budget. Continue reading “Agri-Aware survey of food industry performance and prospects”

Legal challenge to attempt to cut payments to pharmacists

Another group has taken the legal route to try to prevent a government decision to reduce expenditure, this time the Minister of Health’s decision to reduce payments to pharmacists for dispensing drugs to patients. Eilish O’Regan, the Irish Independent’s health correspondent, has two good articles outlining both the background to the dispute and giving some details on the money at stake to individual pharmacies in today’s issue of that paper.

The case (see Irish Times report here), which is being taken by the Haire group of pharmacies, claims that the cuts will push it into a loss-making situation meaning it cannot repay its bank loans and will thus become insolvent. The pharmacies want an injunction restraining the Minister applying the regulations. Among various claims, they allege failure to provide 30 days notice of the change in the payment regime was unlawful and breached their constitutional rights. The case is being prosecuted by Gerard Hogan, SC who is also representing the teachers taking a case against the government for closing their early retirement scheme. The application for the injunction will be heard on Monday next.

If the main argument made by the pharmacies is that the Minister did not give the required 30-day notice, this would appear to simply delay rather than prevent the implementation of the cuts, which seems a lot of money simply for a few months’ reprieve. If the Minister lost on that basis, I presume she would simply start the process again giving proper notice. One assumes that the pharmacies want to prevent the cuts indefinitely, but the basis for this argument is not clear from the reports.

Milk market transparency and competition

The EU Commission today published a report on the EU dairy market. It is mainly concerned with setting out the portfolio of measures available to alleviate the very difficult milk market situation. Demand for milk products, particularly the higher value products such as cheese and fresh products which account for 70 per cent of EU production, has been adversely affected by the economic downturn. At the same time, there has been a collapse in world market prices, due to a combination of production increases by other suppliers (New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Brazil) responding to the dramatic increase in dairy product prices in 2007-08 and a drop in global demand due to the economic crisis.

The report also deals with the widening gap between the price paid to farmers for milk and the prices charged to consumers for milk products. The figures for Ireland are particularly startling, even if the pattern for other EU countries is broadly similar. Between Q4 2007 and Q1 2009, the price paid to farmers for raw milk in Ireland fell by 43%, with corresponding reductions in the wholesale prices paid for butter and skim milk powder of 44% and 41%, respectively. However, the CPI for the product category ‘milk, cheese, eggs’ (which includes other milk products but excludes butter) actually increased by 9% over the same period, compared to a 4% increase for food products generally. From the CSO databank, I calculated that the corresponding increase for butter was 2%, which while smaller, is still extraordinary in the light of the 44% decrease in the wholesale price of butter over the same period.

The Commission report underlines that this is not just an Irish problem. However, the Competition Authority’s recent investigation into grocery prices which recommended a relaxation of planning restrictions to encourage greater competition in the retail trade does not seem an adequate response to this total absence of price transmission in the dairy supply chain. At a minimum, we need much greater transparency in how margins are distributed between producers, processors and retailers.

An Bord Snip: Agriculture, forestry and fishing

The reaction to An Bord Snip Nua’s proposed spending cuts in the agriculture, forestry and fishing (AFF) area has been predictably intense. The overall savings proposed are €305 million, out of total voted expenditure of €1,985 million (or €1,655 if EU receipts under the Rural Development Programme which count against this expenditure are excluded), amounting to a reduction of 15.4% on voted expenditure (18.4% on the national contribution to  this voted expenditure). Taking all of public expenditure, An Bord Snip Nua identified potential savings of €5.3 billion or 9.3% of relevant expenditure. It therefore seems as if the AFF area will be asked to take a disproportionate share of the overall cuts. However, while I have some quibbles with the details, it is hard to disagree with the overall thrust of the proposals, and indeed I think some expenditure schemes were lucky to survive. I look at the details of the proposals with respect to agriculture in this post. Continue reading “An Bord Snip: Agriculture, forestry and fishing”

Legal challenge to cancelled retirement scheme

I have previously discussed on this blog whether groups disadvantaged by fiscal policy cutbacks might seek to protect their position by means of a legal challenge using the concept of ‘legitimate expectations’ (see also a revised version of this post in the Irish Times). It looks like we may get further clarification of this issue in a High Court case which is being taken by four secondary school teachers who are challenging the government’s suspension of an early retirement scheme.

Apparently, the scheme was due to run until the end of this year and counsel for the teachers, Gerard Hogan SC, is claiming that they were legitimately entitled to expect to avail of it.

The court’s decision will clarify whether other groups adversely affected by a policy cutback might seek to go the legal route to attempt to reverse it.

Who pays the cost of food safety?

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has published the results of its investigation into the pork dioxin crisis in Ireland last December. This crisis was caused by contaminated oil being used in a food waste recycling plant in Co. Wexford resulting in elevated levels of dioxin above the EU legal maximum in some pork products. Pigs on those farms which had been fed contaminated feed were slaughtered and all Irish pork products produced since 1 September were recalled from the home and export markets. The Joint Committee report describes how the contamination occurred and identifies a number of weaknesses in the food safety control system. However, the broader question of who should pay for food safety is left unexamined. Continue reading “Who pays the cost of food safety?”