The Competition Authority’s intervention in the latest round of the beef forum talks is ‘brass necked’ and ‘partisan’, according to the President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA).

John Comer said the intervention will be seen by farmers as supporting the factories’ position that current price differentials between Ireland and the UK are merely a function of straightforward supply-and-demand market movements and not at all a result of a deliberate strategy on the part of the factories, which farm organisations argue is almost certainly the case.

He said that he and his association would consider the Competition Authority’s intervention as “brass-necked and almost without comparison in terms of insensitivity and display of partisanship”.

He also said that the timing of the Authority’s intervention was deeply suspicious and it looked very much like the Authority had been “whistled up” to provide an excuse for the policy of non-intervention which seemed to be the Departmental line thus far.

Comer was particularly disparaging on the suggestion that the Competition Authority’s intervention was about protecting the interests of the consumers. “That is nonsense. The Authority’s intervention will be seen as protecting the practices and profits of the meat factories at the expense of the farmers.

“Where was the Competition Authority when farmers complained about anti-consumer structure of fertiliser prices? Or veterinary medicines? Or fallen animals’ knackery fees? Or when the Incorporated Law Society changed the rules to facilitate multiple legal representation a few years ago? Or the decade-old complaints about retail multiples dictating price backwards to the producers and wiping out farmer margins? Where was the Competition Authority then?

“This is a deeply suspicious intervention that will only lower the reputation of the Competition Authority amongst farmers further,” he said.