Concerns raised over clearance of ABP/Slaney deal

Farmers have raised concerns over the approval of the ABP/Slaney deal which was given the green light to proceed on Friday.

ICSA Beef Chairman Edmond Phelan said he was dismayed by the news that the ABP/Slaney merger would go ahead, as the decision will only add to the perception that the European Union (EU) is good at regulating small enterprises but weak on big business.

“This, along with the EU’s inability to control the greedy retail sector has left Irish cattle and sheep farmers in an even worse position than before.

“Farmers are regulated to within an inch of their lives yet we have seen no regulation further down the food chain with the big retailers and processors making huge profits on the back of farmers who are lucky to break even.

“Farmers are getting squeezed from all sides when you also take into consideration the cost of inputs, something is going to have to give,” he said.

Phelan also said that the EU rules demand that producer groups cannot control more than 15% of supply.

Yet ABP factories have now received the green light on control in excess of 28% of the cattle trade and 40% of the sheep trade.

“ICSA, in its submission to the Commission, demonstrated that Slaney typically paid above average prices for heifers and steers and the concern is that this will now be eroded.

Phelan continued to say this news is not good for farmers.

“This merger only further consolidates the cattle trade in a small circle which leaves the farmer in an extremely vulnerable position,” he said.

Meanwhile, IFA President Joe Healy said the serious issues around weak competition in the beef sector have not gone away and must be addressed if livestock farmers are to achieve a sustainable income from their production of top quality beef.

Responding to the Commission’s decision to allow the ABP/Slaney merger to proceed, Healy said that farmers cannot understand why the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) refused to investigate the case.

The CCPC turned a blind eye to the serious competition issues in the Irish market for the purchase of cattle.

“They effectively washed their hands of the ABP/Slaney deal by leaving it to the Brussels authorities,” he said.

Healy continued to say that the conclusion by DG Competition that farmers are able to switch slaughter houses if they can get better prices is totally at odds with reality of the beef trade.

Angus Woods, IFA Livestock Chairman, said the reality of the decision is that farmers are being forced to sell at a loss-making base price of 370c/kg with factories claiming they cannot take stock for another week, at which point the price may be even lower.

It’s clear that if we had real competition, farmers would be getting better prices for cattle.