IFA president, Tim Cullinan, has said the new Food Ombudsman/Regulator “must have real teeth and be able to hold processors and retailers to account”.
The farm leader has warned that “we will not attract young people into the sector unless they get a fair return for what they produce”.
He acknowledges the move by the Minister to transpose the Unfair Trading Practices Directive into national law and to have a public consultation process on a wider remit of the Food Regulator/Ombudsman.
“However, we cannot have any foot-dragging in getting an office set up. It must have full powers of investigation, the ability to make findings and the authority to impose sanctions,” he said.
“At present, farmers feel that processors and retailers are abusing their dominant market positions with impunity and that the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has failed farmers,” he said.
Large retailers ‘dominating the market’
“The recurring evidence of large retailers dominating the market with excessive buying power has to stop. This drives prices to farmers to unviable levels, often below the cost of production,” he said.
He said IFA fought hard at EU level to introduce the Unfair Trading Practices Directive.
“We welcome the fact that this will be transcribed into Irish law before the May 1st deadline required by the EU. This will automatically outlaw a number of key unfair trading practices,” he said.
The EU Directive, he added, gives the power to member states to legislate for additional legal requirements, going beyond the scope of the UTP Directive.
“This option must be backed up by serious legislation. At present, only 6% of farmers in Ireland are under 35 years of age. We will not attract young people into the sector unless they get a fair return for what they produce,” he said.
New milk price analysis
Meanwhile, its dairy committee has completed a new milk price analysis.
Chairman of the committee, Stephen Arthur, said the purpose of this analysis is to allow farmers to compare prices paid by milk processors on a like-for-like basis.
“The analysis, completed by the committee with our senior dairy policy executive Aine O’Connell, demonstrates the revenue a spring-calving herd, with average monthly milk solids, would generate. It compares 11 milk processors across the country for 2019 and 2020”.
According to the farm group, using actual monthly milk statements provided to IFA by members, the analysis ranks processors in order of the annual income that would be generated, adjusted for milk constituents.
“We believe the analysis will provide more price transparency, and we plan to publish it on an annual basis,” he said.
The meeting will update farmers on how the research was completed and deal with any queries from farmers.