RETAILERS are threatening the viability of fresh produce growers in this country, the national potato conference and trade show was told in Dublin yesterday.
Irish Farmers Association president John Bryan said growers can no longer survive the excessive downward pressure on prices which is forcing farmers to produce below the cost of production.
“Growers make an investment of over €90 million annually to grow 30,000 acres of potatoes and they consistently deliver a quality, safe product for the supermarket shelves.
“Retailers are not treating growers or their produce fairly, and they must address the loss-making situation in primary production as a matter of urgency.
“At a minimum, growers are entitled to cover their costs and earn a margin that rewards their labour and management.”
Mr Bryan said he would be maintaining pressure on the Government to bring in a code of practice as soon as possible. “In a recent meeting with Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, I impressed on her the need for legislation to underpin and strengthen the voluntary code of practice being proposed,” he said.
Mr Bryan also identified input costs and especially Government-controlled costs such as energy, labour and bureaucracy, and the introduction of a draconian carbon tax, as key issues to be addressed to ensure the viability of the tillage sector.
“The potato industry is a highly progressive and commercial sector. The recent prolonged freeze has left many growers facing huge losses,” he said. Mr Bryan said the financial assistance announced by Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith was welcome.
“However, the details of the package must be practical and deliver worthwhile support in the shortest time possible,” he said.
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