Business Farming

Saturday 23 August 2014

Farmers give away free vegetables in protest at store price war

Aideen Sheehan

Published 20/12/2013 | 02:30

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Vegetable grower Pat Stephens, from Co Galway, centre, protesting in Dunne Stores, Dublin, as gardai arrive. Niall Carson/PA

FARMERS have taken to the streets to give away free vegetables in protest at supermarket price wars which they say will undermine their livelihoods.

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Around 250 farmers descended on Dunnes Stores in Dublin's St Stephen's Green shopping centre to purchase trolley-loads of carrots and parsnips priced at just 6c a bag which they then proceeded to hand out to bemused shoppers.

Irish Farmers Association president John Bryan said they wanted to highlight the "ludicrous" price war between supermarkets which has driven prices to rockbottom levels at Dunnes, Lidl and Aldi.

Prices include 500g of Brussels sprouts, parsnips or clementines for 6c at Dunnes and 5c for a bag of potatoes, onions and carrots at Lidl.

Mr Bryan said all growers wanted was a fair price to cover their costs and give them a reasonable margin.

"We're not looking for big profits, we just want to ensure growers have a livelihood from their work into the future," he said.

Potato and vegetable grower Shane Howell, from Killeigh in Co Offaly, said this should be the busiest week of his year, but his sales had been decimated as the small grocery stores he supplied couldn't compete with the might of the multiples slashing prices.

"There'd normally be articulated trucks coming in and out for supplies but instead it's all quiet and business is down €25,000 on what it should be this week," he said.

The IFA also protested outside the Department of Jobs and Enterprise to insist the Government deliver on its long awaited pledge to enact new regulations for the grocery sector to protect suppliers in their dealings with retailers.

Mr Bryan said fresh food giveaway prices "are making a mockery of the hard work of vegetable and potato growers".

Even if supermarkets insisted that they were funding the cost of the current promotions rather than the suppliers, it would ultimately be farmers who paid the price with lower prices for these and other items in the future, he said.

The IFA said some potato farmers had seen prices slashed from €250 a tonne to €120 in the last week as a result of supermarket discounts.

Aldi and Lidl have both said that they are funding the costs of their promotions themselves and are paying suppliers an agreed price.

Dunnes Stores has made no comment on the matter to date.

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Aldi supplier Paul Brophy of Iverk Produce in Piltown, Co Kilkenny, said neither his company nor farmer-suppliers were funding Aldi's current "Super 6" promotion offering a range of fruit and vegetables for 6c each.

"We may for example give a small discount based on the volumes that are sold during Super 6 but this is not funding a promotion. This is normal business and the volumes make up for this.

"Aldi does not come back to us after striking a deal to try to keep the prices artificially low, as has been suggested."

SuperValu will donate €100,000 from its fruit and veg sales this Christmas to Focus Ireland, but won't be reducing the price of its vegetables below the current low of 19c.

Irish Independent

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