EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan must establish an official auditing body with the power to scrutinise the buying and operational practises of all the groupings that make up the agri food supply chain, according to ICSA General Secretary Eddie Punch.

“We made this point in the strongest possible terms to the Commissioner when we met him in Brussels recently.

“The reality is that the EU Court of Auditors has the power to scrutinise very aspect of the way in which EU monies are spent. And the court has the power to fine organisation deemed to be in breach of EU regulations and ethics.

“So ICSA sees no reason why Commissioner Hogan cannot put in place a body with similar powers but with a specific remit to investigate the practises of the food processing sector and retailers. And, of course, there is a very strong linkage between the spending of EU support funds within agriculture and the impact this has on the agri-food chain as a whole.”

The ICSA representative is very aware that Commissioner Hogan has already proposed the appointment of a supermarket ombudsman.

“But this will not address the problem that exists,” he commented.

“The ombudsman’s office can only react to complaints that it receives. The reality is that no food processer is going to formally complain about its dealing with a multiple retailer. And farmers are too far divorced from both processers and retailers to allow them come forward with specific queries. The only solution to this problem is one centred on the appointment of a formal auditing agency which will be expected to proactively investigate the EU’s food sector in a systematic fashion.

“There is ample evidence to show that farmers are not getting a fair crack of the whip when it comes to the current operation of the agri food supply chain. At the height of this year’s beef crisis we had the unfolding scenario of retail beef prices in the UK remain ng steady while farmgate returns in this country crash.

“It has been estimated that, as a consequence, beef farmers in Ireland lost out to the tune of €170 million.   This must never be allowed to happen again.”