The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said that he does not want to see food being sold for ‘half nothing’ on supermarket shelves.

He made the comments in an interview on Newstalk recently when responding to a warning from the Competition Authority against interfering with vegetable prices in advance of Christmas.

Minister Coveney said he thought it was wrong to stay that he and the Department of Agriculture were criticised by the authority.

However, he did say that he certainly did raise some issues with retaliers after last year and the selling of vegetables literally for nothing in some supermarkets.

“I did have concerns about that.

“We have a fruit and vegetable industry in Ireland from a farming point of view, which is worth over €400 million a year and €300 million of that is sold through Irish retailers.

Minister Coveney said that unlike in beef, dairy and sheep meat were the vast majority of product is exported aboard, in the vegetable sector the vast majority is consumed in Ireland.

“What I don’t like seeing is retailers using vegetables, that are produced to a very high quality, as a loss leader to try and bring shoppers into their retail outlets,” he said.

He said there is no doubt they will make that money back by pricing on other products.

The Minister said that is why he asked Minister for State Tom Hayes to meet the supermarkets and talk to them about a strategy on this issue.

He said from his point of view the practice of below-cost selling vegetables was essentially devaluing high quality Irish food.

Minister Coveney also said that if shoppers want to get better deals and retailers want to provide better deals there is lots of ways they can do that, such as through vouchers and promotions.

However, he stressed that if we are serious about being a high-quality food producer as an island, then literally giving away food for nothing in his view sends out the wrong message.

He said the practice both devalues the food and the people that produce it.

“That’s the conversation we have been having with the Completion Authority,” he said.