The announcement last week that the Larry Goodman owned ABP Group is set to take a 50% stake in Slaney Foods has left serious reservations amongst beef farmers, according to the ICSA.

ICSA Beef Chairman Edmond Phelan has called on the Competition Authority to look at the tie-up and assess what impact any such deal would have on Irish beef farmers.

“It is clear that it will increase the dominance of Larry Goodman’s ABP group over beef processing and will also result in the group getting a very dominant position in sheepmeat as well,” he said.

Phelan has said that investigation will really test the merit of the Competition Authority.

“ICSA and others have complained to the Competition Authority over the years to little avail about the concentration of processing power in the hands of three groups.

“They will be well aware that farmers are utterly frustrated that the price of beef and trends in payment seems remarkably similar across all factories despite the diverse nature of their businesses and the wide array of customers which they supply. However, this really must be a step too far for the Competition Authority to ignore.”

ICSA says the deal would see the ABP Group having control of some 28% of beef processing in Ireland and 40% of sheep processing.

“This deal will only serve to increase the all-powerful and dominant position of a small number of players in the meat processing sector. Farmers struggle on a daily basis to get a fair price for their cattle from factories, this is just going to weaken their position even further,” he said.

Phelan added that the Competition Authority had flexed its muscles last year when it threatened the beef forum in case there was any effort to increase prices on an organised way.

“It will be interesting to see if there is any concern shown by the authority about the potential of this merger to further weaken the position of farmers.

“We have seen that EU regulators have been very keen to avoid market concentration when it comes to airlines but there seems to be little concern about the meat industry,” he concluded.