Tesco “cannot wash its hands” of the issue of farmers working for below the cost of production, according to the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

ICSA president Edmond Phelan expressed amazement at the statement made by Tesco in response to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) protest at its distribution centre on the topic that the price paid by consumers in its shops is unrelated to the price paid to the primary producer.

Commenting on the matter, Phelan said:

“Tesco and other retailers cannot wash their hands of the issue of farmers being forced to work for less than the cost of production.

For many years retailers have supported fair trade coffee – but it is shocking that they don’t give a damn about primary producers of beef on their own doorstep.

“The relentless focus on driving down price is part of the problem, but it is also the insistence that farmers are entitled to less than half the retail price after a process of breeding and feeding that takes three years.

“Then, within three weeks, the processors carve up the majority of the value of the animal for themselves.”

‘Not good enough’

Phelan continued, adding that it is “not good enough” that retailers with considerable influence on the food chain can “try to dodge their responsibilities”.

He added that his organisation believes the low prices in 2019 are a “reflection of aggressive procurement policies by both retailers and processors which are pushing farmers to the brink of bankruptcy and many farmers in meat production are in a state of despair”.

The president also highlighted that Tesco is the third biggest supermarket chain in the world, and has posted global profits of over €2.5 billion, with total revenues in Ireland of some €2.6 billion.

“Farmers are supplying beef to help multinational retailers at a massive loss, and this cannot continue.

It is now time for beef price to move above €4.00/kg in order to prevent any further haemorrhaging of money by Irish beef farmers.

“Supermarkets who sell Irish beef at current farm-gate price are not supporting farmers – they are exploiting them,” Phelan concluded.

Tesco statement

In response to the IFA’s protest outside its distribution centre this morning, a spokesperson for Tesco Ireland said:

“At Tesco, we have always maintained a good working relationship with the IFA and in recent weeks had a very constructive meeting, so today’s action at our distribution centre is regrettable,” the representative said.

Tesco is one of the biggest supporters and purchasers of Irish food and drink globally. We are proud that all our own-label fresh beef, pork, lamb and chicken is 100% Irish and Bord Bia approved.

“All Tesco own-label fresh beef is sourced through processors, who agree prices directly with farmers.

“The price customers pay for beef products in our stores is not related to the price farmers receive from the processors,” the representative added.

As a business we pay for any price promotions we run.

“Tesco supports the work of the Beef Market Taskforce and agrees that it is the correct mechanism for resolving the current challenges in the beef sector,” the spokesperson concluded.