Hundreds of farmers swarmed into supermarkets around the country, bought up the all the heavily discounted vegetables on sale and then gave them away for free to the public outside.
The farmers were protesting at the sale of vegetables such as potatoes and carrots for as low as 5-6 cent each in a number of large supermarket chains including SuperValu, Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes Stores.
The biggest gathering, involving more than 200 farmers, took place at the Dunnes Stores supermarket in St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. A spokesman for the Irish Farmers Association said the farmers loaded up all the vegetables that were on sale “at ludicrous prices”, paid for them and then went outside and distributed them to passersby. At one point gardaí were called but the event passed off peacefully.
The spokesman said the public was very supportive of what they were doing.
“Consumers are smart,” he said. “They know it is very shortsighted to believe these products are only worth 6c,” he said.
Outgoing IFA president John Bryan said: “What is going on here [in the supermarkets] is undermining the income of farmers. Retailers say they are carrying the cost. That is not true. We have potato farmers and vegetable farmers who have been rung this week and told they are getting half what they got last week.”
It was a similar story in the two retailers’ outlets across the country.
In Bandon, Co Cork, a group of farmers went into the local Lidl, bought the discounted vegetables such as onions, parsnips and baby potatoes and then distributed them to people outside.
“Customers were surprised, they thought there was some catch, but when they realised there was none they were delighted to be given the vegetables,” said IFA member Harold Kingston, a dairy farmer from Bandon.
“Others said they didn’t need them but voiced their support for us,” he said.
The IFA’s spokesman said its actions were very much aimed at Dunnes and Lidl in particular. “They are the main culprits kicking this [low cost selling of fresh produce] off,” he said.
He said in spite of protestations by discount retailers that they are absorbing the price-drop on the products, the IFA was aware that prices being paid to growers had dropped by significant amounts in recent days, and that shops were using their produce as loss leaders and then making up any perceived loss on other lines.
Aldi yesterday issued a statement saying the “generalised allegations being made in recent days are unfounded and not relevant in the case of Aldi”.
“Aldi stresses that they are bearing the cost of the promotion, and not the farmers or growers,” it said. “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. This has been the case since Aldi introduced its weekly ‘Super 6’ promotion on fruit and vegetables in Jan 2008 and is well understood by farmers and growers.”
A spokeswoman for Lidl said that growers and suppliers were being paid the full price for these products and that Lidl was bearing the cost of the promotion.
Earlier in the day farmers protested outside the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.
John Bryan accused Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton of “dithering on regulation” on below cost-selling.
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