IFA chief to take on retailers in food price war
HE won the war on Brazilian beef and now the new president of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) is taking on the supermarkets.
John Bryan vowed to bring the same tenacity he used to secure an EU-wide ban on Brazilian beef to his fight with supermarkets to get better prices for farmers.
Mr Bryan accused supermarkets of daylight robbery in the prices they pay food producers.
He said that during 2009 they had engaged in a "vicious war for market share that decimated the incomes of primary producers".
Discounting of Irish food prices was at the expense of farmers, while the big companies protected their own margins and boosted corporate profits, Mr Bryan told the IFA agm where he officially took over as president from Padraig Walshe.
"This is daylight robbery and an affront to any fair sense of corporate responsibility. This corporate greed and contempt for the men and women who produce our food must be addressed," he said.
Mr Bryan said he would meet supermarket bosses in Ireland and England over the coming weeks to try and secure better prices for farmers and was establishing a Retailer, Processor and Consumer Relations Project Team to fight on this single crucial issue.
The new head of the IFA is known for his strength as a negotiator. This came through when he managed to persuade EU bureaucrats to ban Brazilian beef two years ago. He travelled to Brazilian beef ranches to secure first-hand evidence of shortcomings in their animal traceability standards.
He is seeking higher prices by pointing to the high quality of Irish produce and animal welfare standards. But if negotiations failed, Mr Bryan warned the IFA would harness its members nationwide for protests to secure a better deal.
"We will set down what we want and I hope we can get a result without protest, but if we do need to protest it is one of the huge strengths of IFA that it has over 80,000 members throughout the country who will turn out in support."
While consumers were pressed for money, they were spending an ever-smaller portion of their household budget on food -- just 13pc now compared to 30pc in 1980 -- and were keen to keep purchasing homegrown produce which would be impossible if farmers were driven out of business, Mr Bryan said.
Farm incomes were unsustainable across all sectors and 2009 had been a horrendous year for farmers as their incomes suffered the worst decline since Ireland joined the EU, with the recent cold snap and floods compounding the problems, he added.
Mr Bryan, a livestock farmer from Inistioge, Co Kilkenny, said that dairy prices needed to increase from 22c per litre to 28c per litre or more, while Irish beef should be marketed as a top quality product in the same way Scottish beef was.