Recently, the CCPC has come out and said that it is against introducing legislation that bans below-cost selling, writes Eamon Corley, Beef Plan committee.
This legislation is one of the initial steps to protect the primary producer.
When food is sold at cost, this basically means that the primary producer does not get paid for his labour.
When food is sold below cost, this means that the primary producer not only does not get paid for his labour, but if he wants to remain in food production, he has no choice but to pay for the privilege of working.
The Beef Plan Price committee believe that not only should we have legislation in place that bans below-cost selling of food.
We should also have legislation in place that ensures the primary producer gets his production costs plus a sustainable margin.
The Beef Plan Price committee makes the point that by failing to put in place such legislation, our politicians have facilitated large retail corporations in squeezing the primary producer.
This lack of action to legislate is responsible for a large number of family farms being forced out of production. It is also responsible for unsustainable income levels in the family farms that remain.
Fundamentally this is a human rights issue that has been directly responsible for not only forcing farmers to work below the minimum wage but often for nothing, and in many cases, farmers have to pay out money so their family farm can survive.
There are many knock-on effects due to this failure by our politicians, such as the race to the bottom as regards food prices.
- The clearing of large sections of the Amazon rain forest;
- Over intensive farming;
- Putting family farms out of business;
- Price pressure is the single biggest contributory factor to farm safety. Farming has been the unsafest occupation for the last decade;
- Introduction of factory farms;
- Jeopardization of food safety;
- The decimation of rural communities;
- Climate change.
This list is endless and all because our politicians have repeatedly failed to legislate to protect the primary producer.
A minimum wage
Yet, our politicians regularly claim to be concerned about this list of issues. It is now time to act on their concerns and tackle the elephant in the room, which is the lack of legislation to protect the primary producer.
The Competition Authority should not be interfering with the basic human rights of the primary producer to a minimum wage.
Their interference in this matter is a blatant example of a body overstepping the mark.
How can a body that is entrusted with ensuring fairness for consumers and producers represent both? Surely there is a conflict of interest here?
On the one hand, how can the Competition Authority make a case for the cheapest possible food for the consumer and, on the other hand, make a case for sustainable pay and conditions for the primary producer?
The simple answer is they cannot represent both.
For this reason, the Beef Plan Price Committee is calling on the politicians to split up the Competition Authority so that the primary producer has a body that looks after its interests.
Two pieces of legislation
We are also calling on the politicians to immediately introduce two pieces of legislation to protect the primary producer.
The first piece is the banning of below-cost selling. The second is that production costs and a sustainable margin are ensured.
The Competition Authority has consistently failed in its role to ensure fair play for the primary producer.
They now need to stop interfering with the putting in place of vital legislation to protect the primary producer.