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Ireland ranks 2nd in EU for high prices

IRELAND is showing no sign of shedding its Rip-Off Republic tag as figures reveal the cost of filling a shopping basket is almost 30% higher than the EU average.

Despite falling prices, the latest Eurostat research, whose price comparisons take into account differing incomes throughout the EU 27, shows Irish consumers are paying way over the odds, despite the fact that much of what we consume is produced in this country.

Dairy products here were the most expensive in the EU, at 37% above average. The price of bread and cereals was second only to Denmark, while meat costs 20% more than the EU average.

Smokers are also being badly hit, with Ireland recording the highest tobacco prices in the EU, more than double the average.

Irish alcohol prices were 67% above average, second only to Finland.

According to the EU survey, the prices being charged for the same products by our nearest neighbours, Britain, are significantly cheaper despite the fact they face the same conditions which companies here have traditionally blamed for higher prices in the past – namely being an island nation and having to pay higher fuel and transport costs.

Despite sharing many of the same supermarket chains, Irish goods are 29% higher than the EU average, while British prices are 3% lower.

British consumers also pay 40% less for milk, cheese and eggs and 20% less for meat.

The difference in the cost of bread and cereals is even greater, at close to 50%.

Reacting to the findings, the independent Consumers Association of Ireland (ICAI) said it was now time for the Government to appoint an ombudsman who would track prices and reveal just who is responsible for keeping prices high.

ICAI chief executive Dermott Jewell said: "There is absolutely no transparency in pricing at the level of producer, distributor or retailer. But we do know that some of our supermarkets are returning ever bigger profits."

Retail Ireland (RI), the IBEC group that represents the retail sector, said the figures were out of date.

"Irish food prices are now back at 2006 levels. Food and drink prices have fallen 8.6%, but today’s figures do not reflect this," said RI director Torlach Denihan.

He went on to warn that costs for retailers also needed to drop. "Prices ultimately reflect the cost of doing business in a particular country, and Ireland unfortunately is still a very expensive place to do business with rent, property service charges and retail wages."

Irish Farmers’ Association president John Bryan said the findings confirmed the country’s food supply chain was broken.

"In the UK, food prices are below the EU average, yet UK farmers are getting a higher price than farmers here.

"It is clear there is an urgent need to restore equity to the food supply chain, with average farm incomes a deplorable €12,000 and the retail multinationals declaring huge profits."