New consumer research carried out on behalf of Agri Aware by Ipsos MRBI reveals strong support among the Irish public for new legislation to ensure that farmers receive a fair price from supermarkets, for the food that is sold here.

The Agri Aware survey comes after some of the country’s leading supermarkets waged a vegetable price war in the run-up to Christmas. Retailers sold produce, including carrots, onions and potatoes for as little as 5 cent per kilo. The promotion sparked fierce criticism from the Irish Farmers’ Association and others.

Almost 9 out of 10 people who responded to the Agri Aware study said they think legislation should be introduced to ensure that farmers receive a fair price from supermarkets for their food that is sold there.

Just 3 in 10 people believe that below cost selling of vegetables has long term benefits for consumers. In December, the National Consumer Agency drew criticism from farming groups when they described the price war as positive and said: ‘I don’t think anyone has proved that there has been a downside.’ This is clearly not the view of the Irish public, as demonstrated by the findings from the Agri Aware survey.

The Agri Aware study also found that 79% of the general public consider quality to be more important than price when purchasing food. Some 86% of respondents agreed that Irish farmers’ contribution to society is important; while the vast majority of respondents agreed that they are proud of Irish farmers (90%) and agreed that they play an important part in the Irish economy (92%).

Agri Aware’s Chairman, Bernard Donohue said “It is clear from this survey how the Irish public are very much behind the introduction of new legislation to ensure that retailers pay a fair price to farmers for the quality food that they produce. Following the vegetable price war at Christmas, the National Consumer Agency described this as positive, yet this Agri Aware survey clearly demonstrates that the Irish public expect retailers to treat farm families fairly. Retailers must realise and take on board what the consumer wants. .”

Reacting to the Agri-Aware survey, IFA President Eddie Downey welcomed the strong endorsement of the Association’s view that regulation of retailers is needed.

He said, “Consumers clearly understand that what happened before Christmas with giveaway prices of vegetables was an example of retailers making a mockery of quality food and threatening the viability of producers in this country. Consumers want quality food at reasonable prices”.

Eddie Downey said the real test of the new legislation, which is scheduled to be published next week, would be a fairer return to producers which covers the cost of production and leaves a margin to cover their work and investment.

Eddie Downey said, “IFA has campaigned for a long time for this legislation, and the Government has finally signalled that legislation is on the way. However, it must be sufficiently robust to restore equity to the food supply chain and curb the dominance of the retail multiples. The latest figures released show the major multiples control nearly 90% of the grocery market”.

“The retail multiples are over dominant in the food supply chain and some of them are engaged in unfair and predatory pricing practices, which are impacting very negatively on the viability of primary producers. Strong and effective legislation, both at national and EU level, is needed to ensure producers are paid a fair price which reflects production costs and leaves an acceptable margin.”

The IFA President warned that without proper enforcement powers, the role of the Ombudsman as envisaged in the legislation will be toothless. “There is little point in the Government fulfilling its promise if it doesn’t provide the necessary back-up to tackle the retailers”.