Supreme Court to make decision on farmers’ markets and street trading

FARMERS, food producers and street traders will keenly follow a case scheduled for Supreme Court consideration on Wednesday, May 11.

A panel of Supreme Court judges will consider the argument of Macroom-based Toby Simmonds, who trades under the name Real Olive Company, that he has a right to trade in an area known as The Parade in Kilkenny.

In 2007, the High Court found against Mr Simmonds, upholding Kilkenny Borough Council’s view that he has no right to trade in that area. Now the Supreme Court will consider Mr Simmonds’s continuing view that the Kilkenny Markets Act of 1861 should take precedence over the 1995 Casual Trading Act.

Some local authorities, such as Limerick and some Dublin boroughs, still observe Ireland’s older historic laws, favoured by the street traders.

Mr Simmonds said: “We attend 30 or so markets around the country, and the reception varies considerably. We see everything from the open approach in Bantry and Skibbereen, where there are virtually no regulations, right up to the hyper-regulated markets in Dublin.

“Sometimes there seems to be a cosy cartel between local farmers in some markets. You could be told you can’t come in to sell fish because the market already has somebody selling fish. The consumer deserves better competition than that.”

Mr Simmonds came to prominence recently when he launched a new buffalo mozzarella range. He has a herd of almost 60 buffalo on his farm. He still hopes to focus on street trading rather than supermarkets and his decision may depend on the imminent Supreme Court decision.

Fellow market trader Gerald Kelleher is also hoping the court decision will bring greater clarity for street traders. Chairman of Clonakilty farmers’ market, Mr Kelleher says towns enjoy a major trading boost on market days.

“Macroom Town Council always says that Tuesday is the busiest day in the week, and that the farmers’ market benefits all the other traders in the town too,” Mr Kelleher said. “The approach varies from town to town, with different space and fees applying. Clonakilty has a designated area on the edge of town, Skibbereen varies a bit more. I would really like to see the same licence fees applying everywhere, like the commercial rate per square foot.”

He said the Bord Bia-backed Good Practice Standard awards bestowed on 30 farmers’ markets this week by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney showed that there is support for the sector at a national level.

“It is great that the markets are getting this recognition,” he said. “The awards are like an acknowledgement by the Government that artisans and street traders are considered important and worthwhile. People often talk about the farmers’ markets as a great tourist attraction, but we prefer to think of them as a great place for local people to shop for local produce.”

In unveiling the awards earlier this week, Minister Coveney proposed that at least 50% of all market produce should be sourced locally and that markets should promote compliance with food safety and labelling rules.

- For more on the Farmers’ Markets Good Practice Standard awards, see: www.bordbia.ie/aboutfood/farmersmarkets

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