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HomeDairyOpinion: New transparency rules must tackle ‘margin mystery’ on food prices 
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Opinion: New transparency rules must tackle ‘margin mystery’ on food prices 

ICMSA president, Pat McCormack, shares his views on the new EU market transparency rules.

It is time that the mystery of the margins was cracked. That can only happen if the new law is applied rigorously and energetically.

The move is a long-overdue step in the right direction. But, the success or otherwise of this initiative will be completely dependent on rigorous implementation.

Anyone with an interest can instantly find out the price paid to farmers and the price the consumer pays.

However, the gap in between is a complete mystery known only by those in the industry, shrouded in secrecy and frequently hidden behind terms like commercially sensitive information.

EU market transparency rules

If the transparency regulations are to be in any way meaningful, they will simply have to get behind the commercially sensitive barrier and publish all the prices paid by the various links in the food supply chain.

For example, the price paid by retailers for liquid milk – including branded and own label price. The prices paid by baby food producers for powders and what this powder is sold for.

Furthermore, the prices that butter, cheese and powders are being sold at between processors, traders, marketing organisations and retailers.

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Also, prices paid for food products – including beef – imported from outside the EU, where they have been produced at lower standards.

Let’s finally see who is getting what and start dealing on the basis of clear facts.

There is absolutely no reason why these figures cannot be published with the commercial sensitive issue dealt with by anonymising the data.

For far too long, the powerful links in the middle of the food supply chain have been able to dictate backwards to farmers and forward to consumers, with only themselves knowing the full picture and margin-map.

That has to end, and this law will provide the means for so doing if properly applied.

So many of these corporations are spending enormous budgets aimed at ‘green washing’ their business profile and polishing very flimsy sustainability credentials.

ICMSA has long pointed out that the best way of ensuring sustainability in food production would be by paying the farmer a sustainable price.

They do not seem to like that option much and seem to prefer spending vast amounts on public relations.

Farm input prices

Farm input inflation is becoming a serious issue, and that a degree of transparency in the supply of farm inputs now needs to be considered.

We need to know who adds what to the price we receive on the food leaving our farms. We need to know who has added what to the prices we pay for our farm inputs. Both are mysteries at present.

To share your view, email – [email protected]

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