FARMERS told the Government yesterday they are disappointed with delays in regulating the retail multiples.
Irish Farmers Association president John Bryan was speaking after a meeting in Dublin with John Travers, the Government-appointed facilitator for the retail service Code of Practice.
Mr Bryan said the findings of the Eurostat report on food prices must inject more urgency into the Government’s plans for regulating the multiples.
“The lack of progress on the Code of Practice has been frustrating and farmers are disappointed with the delay in the implementation of legislation. The message from the Eurostat report was stark: retailers are enjoying margins in this country far ahead of their European counterparts.
“Compared to our nearest market in Britain, into which we export high volumes of meat and dairy products, food prices are below the EU average. Yet, British farmers got higher prices in 2009 than farmers here.
“Obviously there is an urgent need to restore equity to the food supply chain with average farm incomes at an unsustainable level of €12,000 and the retail multinationals continue to deliver huge profits.”
Mr Bryan presented Mr Travers with a copy of the IFA document, Equity for Farmers in the Food Supply Chain.
The document shows that farmers producing everyday food products are operating below break-even and, on average, get just one-third of the final retail price.
“This is not sustainable for producers, nor is it in the interests of consumers, and must be addressed through effective regulation of the food supply chain,” he said.
The IFA president said the Government must address this market failure in the food supply chain by new regulation and the proper enforcement of existing law to tackle anti-competitive conduct.
“The new statutory Code of Practice promised by the Government must enshrine the principle of fair trade for farmers in the grocery trade by providing a means for the more equitable share-out of the consumer price across the food chain,” he said.
In particular, the IFA is proposing that retailers are required to report details of their profitability in this country, as well as the outlawing of unsustainable practices.
The IFA claims these practices include ‘hello money’, ‘pay to play money’, below-cost selling and forcing suppliers to fund retail price reductions. Other proposals cover proper labelling and the auditing of commitments to source Irish products.
To police the Code and investigate complaints, the IFA said the Government must also legislate for an independent Ombudsman, who would have the power to demand data from retailers while maintaining the anonymity and confidentiality of suppliers who make complaints.
Mr Bryan said the retailers were in danger of destroying the benefits to consumers of a secure supply of Irish and European food.
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