Competition Authority warns beef forum about ‘price fixing’

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission announced this morning that it has written to relevant parties in the Irish beef sector following recent activity to remind them of their obligations under competition law – in the interests of consumers.

Today sees the fifth meeting of the Beef Forum, with processors and farming organisations meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to discuss the on-going issues in the beef industry.

The Commission has taken the action of contacting parties as a pre-emptive step given the potential that planned discussions, due to take place today could move into competition-sensitive areas, for example in relation to fixing prices or anti-competitive collective action. “We have stepped in to remind both the beef processors and farmers of their obligations under competition legislation.”

The Commission will also keep under review the impact of any actions or agreements on the supply chain and on consumers.

The mission of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is to make markets work better for consumers and businesses, it says and does this by helping to create open and competitive markets and by working to remove unnecessary barriers to competition.

“We support markets where businesses can actively compete. This benefits everyone; consumers, businesses and the economy. Where there is evidence of businesses engaging in anti-competitive behaviour, whether through price-fixing or abusing their dominant position, the Commission can intervene through the enforcement of competition law.”

Speaking in the Dail this morning Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said he has already got two letters from the Competition Authority making it very clear how far the beef forum can go on a whole series of issues and where it can’t go in relation to trying to influence price directly.

Today’s forum comes after the IFA’s 48-hour protest at three of the main meat processors in the country, Kepak, ABP and Dawn Meats. Talks between the processors, which were represented by Meat Industry Ireland (MII) collapsed last Friday night after intense negotiations. However, talks continued on Saturday when the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney returned from a trade mission to China and contacted both sides, but to no avail.

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