John Maloney, vice chairman of the Beef Plan Movement (BPM), has criticised the latest intervention into the food sector by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).
BPM is currently lobbying the government to ban below-cost selling of food.
“This is a cause of extreme hardship for farmers when these losses are then passed down to primary producers,” Maloney said.
“The CCPC recently sent a submission to the new office of the Food Ombudsman seeking a commitment to omit a ban on below-cost selling of food from new legislation on unfair trading practices.
“We find it unbelievable that at a time when workers’ rights are an integral part of our economy, the CCPC has little issue with primary producers working for little or nothing,” he added.
“In fact, the CCPC seems to place the short-term interests of consumers above all else.”
Beef Plan Movement poses questions
The BPM has said that it wants to question the competition authority about where it thinks Ireland’s food supply will come from in the future, if all the country’s primary producers go out of business.
“How can we ask young people to make the commitment to become farmers if they cannot be guaranteed a cost-of-production, not to mention a margin?” Maloney continued.
“We have spent generations nurturing our agricultural land and developing a food production system which is safe and highly efficient.
“As a result, we are the first generation in history to not witness food shortages at some stage in our lifetime.
“However, with a rapidly growing world population, we believe it is more important than ever to support our primary producers to meet the inevitable challenges that lie ahead,” he added.
According to the BPM, the CCPC wants farmers to be subsidised, in order to cover losses from below-cost selling.
“We ask the question: Is the competition authority completely out of sync with what is actually happening in the real economy?” Maloney continued.
“Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments are set to be reduced over the coming years as funds are simply not available. Increased environmental restrictions will also make food more expensive to produce.
“At no time in history have consumers spent so little of their disposable income on food. This figure has decreased from 27.7% in 1980, to 14.7% in 2017,” he added.
“Surely it is only fair that consumers should cover the cost of producing their food. The situation where farmers are expected to work for nothing is quite simply unethical and shortsighted.
“It is essential now, that the CCPC should seek a more equitable distribution of funds within the food sector and end what we believe is its support for the exploitation of primary producers, where our produce is given away for virtually nothing.
“We need to ban below-cost selling once and for all,” Maloney concluded.