Farmers yesterday said they plan to demonstrate outside Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton’s office to protest over the supermarket price war that has slashed the prices of vegetables to just a few cents.
The protest is due to take place outside the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, with an impromptu demonstration at a supermarket also likely.
Outgoing Irish Farmers Association president John Bryan said while customers might be counting their savings as supermarkets sell bags of carrots and potatoes for as little as 5c, such practices would threaten jobs.
Speaking on RTÉ, Mr Bryan said “one way or the other, the retailer is going to get his margin across the floor,” and suggested that producers would lose out as a result of the price war.
“Putting that level of pressure on primary producers, it is going to cost jobs.”
The new IFA president, Eddie Downey, earlier said the price war was a “massive issue”, claiming “families have to be fed, bills have to be met”.
“Everybody knows it’s unsustainable to produce that type of vegetables at those type of prices.”
Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke, Mr Downey said some farmers hoped to make their yearly profits before Christmas, yet supermarkets were slashing prices on these items to create footfall to sell non-perishable items at higher prices.
“There is a vulnerability here within our sector which has been exposed by the multiples and has to be put back.”
Large supermarket chains such as Dunnes and Lidl have slashed their prices on items such as 1kg bags of potatoes and carrots, meaning they can be picked up for as little as 5c.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he could not control what he said was the “very aggressive” price wars currently underway in the supermarket sector.
The minister said legislation would be introduced to ensure supermarkets stick to the terms of contracts signed with food producers and that a mandatory code of conduct would be available “within weeks, if not months”.
Dermott Jewell, policy and council advisor with the Consumers Association of Ireland, said the likelihood was “the prices of the vegetables may be down for this week but it is limited and it will end — swiftly.”
Supermarket giant Aldi said its current cut-price range of vegetables did not mean the producer was losing out and claimed “the generalised allegations being made in recent days are unfounded and not relevant in the case of Aldi”.
In a statement, the chain said it would meet with the IFA to discuss their concerns, adding: “Aldi stresses that they are bearing the cost of the promotion, and not the farmers or growers. Aldi has agreed prices with its suppliers that are fair for all parties. Once an agreement has been reached with a supplier, Aldi honours that agreement.”
Paul Brophy, general manager of Iverk Produce in Piltown, Co Kilkenny, which supplies the majority of the potatoes used in the Aldi promotion as well as all the carrots, clementines and pineapples, said: “I can confirm that neither we nor our suppliers are bearing the cost of the Aldi Super 6 promotion… Any current fluctuation in the cost price of potatoes is just normal business and unrelated to the current promotion.”
The row comes as unions have urged the Government to give €10m to charities to alleviate the effects of food poverty.
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