Retailers are set to slash the price of vegetables next week, according to Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Agriculture Eamon O Cuiv.

Retailers, when contacted by Agriland, said they were not in a position to confirm or deny the allegations.

O Cuiv said the move is reminiscent of that seen in December 2013 when retailers cut the price of fruit and vegetables in a bid to lure customers into shops in the weeks leading up to the large Christmas shop.

Ó Cuív has that back in 2013 fruit and veg producers were put at a serious financial disadvantage when the major multiples began selling off vegetables at totally uneconomic prices.

“There is talk in the trade now that some of the large retailers have plans in place to repeat the offers of 2013,” he said.

Back in 2013, vegetables were freely selling for five cent and six cent a kilo in many of the large retailers.

O Cuiv has called on the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Simon Coveney, to ensure that supermarkets pay a fair price to farmers for their produce and that the price cutting of vegetables witnesses over Christmas 2013 is not repeated.

Ó Cuív said this will result in huge pressure on growers as well as small green grocers, who depend on the Christmas trade for their profits but will be unable to compete with the prices being offered by the big supermarket chains.

“Many growers lost a significant amount of money in 2013 and a repeat of this practice would make their futures unsustainable.

“I have been consistently calling on the Agriculture Minister to try and deal with this issue in a pro-active way, rather than adopting the stand-off attitude he has taking. His claims that this is a commercial issue and that he has no role in price negotiations between growers and retailers simply do not stand up.

While I accept that it is not the Minister’s role to set prices, it is his responsibility under Article 45.2.iii of the Constitution to ensure ‘that the operation of free competition shall not be allowed, so to develop as to result in the concentration of the ownership or control of essential commodities in a few individuals to the common detriment.

“A small number of supermarket retailers should not be allowed to manipulate prices to the detriment of local, independent, family businesses. This predatory pricing practice is not only threatening the future of local shops and greengrocers but it has the potential to decimate a whole section of Irish agriculture.

“These multinationals are controlling prices in order to entice customers to their shops and to maintain their profits, irrespective of the collateral damage it will do to horticulture farming in Ireland.

Lidl response

“At present, Lidl is not in a position to confirm fruit and vegetable pricing for the Christmas season. When running price offers on fruit and vegetables every week, we ensure that the cost of this is absorbed by Lidl and not our suppliers.

“As a business we are proud to support over 180 Irish suppliers and sourcing from local suppliers continues to be a primary focus for Lidl as we expand and upgrade our offering in Ireland over the coming years.”

Aldi response

Aldi, when contacted by Agriland, said it had no comment to make on the matter.

Tesco response

“We are focused on giving customers the best overall value, range and experience every time they shop in Tesco and we are committed to continuing to support our Irish supply base and developing long-term sustainable relationships with our growers.”