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Thursday 8 December 2016

'Retailers are behaving like The Sopranos'

Declan O'Brien

Published 30/03/2010 | 05:00

BEHIND THE WHEEL: Pictured at the 'Crisis or Opportunity' seminar to discuss the rural economy and the effect of future changes in CAP at Tipperary Institute, Thurles, Co Tipperary, on Friday,
were, from left, John Byran, IFA National President, Alan Kelly MEP and Labour Party Leader and Eamon Gilmore.
BEHIND THE WHEEL: Pictured at the 'Crisis or Opportunity' seminar to discuss the rural economy and the effect of future changes in CAP at Tipperary Institute, Thurles, Co Tipperary, on Friday, were, from left, John Byran, IFA National President, Alan Kelly MEP and Labour Party Leader and Eamon Gilmore.

The actions of Europe's major retail multiples have been likened to those of characters from the hit crime series The Sopranos by Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore.

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Mr Gilmore castigated the retail sector for the manner in which they have dealt with food processors and producers.

Mr Gilmore said the levying of 'hello money' and the practice of charging processors for retail shelf space was not acceptable.

Speaking at a conference on the future of CAP, which was held at Tipperary Institute, Thurles last Friday, he described the activities of some of the country's major retailers as "outrageous".

"Powerful dominant players such as Tesco are extorting huge sums of money from Irish suppliers in exchange for the privilege of getting their food onto supermarket shelves," Mr Gilmore said.

"It is the kind of thing you would expect to see in The Sopranos.

"It is bad for suppliers, including farmers who cannot get their produce onto the shelves of major supermarkets.

"It is bad for consumers whose choice is reduced. It must stop," the Labour leader insisted.

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Ireland South MEP Alan Kelly said he intended to use his position on the European Parliament committee on the internal market to call for an investigation into the actions of Europe's retail giants.

Mr Kelly's stance was supported by Eddie Punch of the ICSA, who said the protection of farmer margins had to be a priority issue.

"No CAP model can be designed to combat the gouging of farmers right across Europe by the major multiples," Mr Punch claimed.

"The power of the multi-national retailers is crippling primary producers and unless the EU can find a way to deal with this issue, then there is no particular CAP model that can stop thousands of farm families going bankrupt across Europe every year."

Mr Punch said retailer power had to be tackled at EU level and he called for a beefing up of competition law by Brussels.

Dr Declan Walsh, an EU competition law specialist from UCC, told a conference workshop that strengthening the Union's competition laws was now vital for farmers.

The thrust of activity by competition watchdogs had been at the consumer end of the supply chain, but the same regulations pertained to the treatment of suppliers to retailers, he pointed out.

Dr Walsh said it was unfor-tunate that the Irish Competition Authority was under threat of being downgraded as part of the Bord Snip proposals.

Citing the example of the US, where people who breach competition law go to prison, the UCC lecturer maintained that a similarly tough line needed to be adopted by European authorities.

Assessing the performance of CAP since its inception, Dr Walsh questioned whether it had delivered for farmers.

One of the founding principles of CAP was that it would provide farmers with a viable income and a fair return for their produce but this had clearly not been the case over the last few years, he observed.

Recent comments from French president Nicolas Sarkozy that he would create a crisis in Europe if there was any downgrading of the CAP showed that Ireland needed to build alliances to protect their interests and protect agriculture funding within the EU, Mr Walsh said.

Irish Independent