'No evidence of cartel at work in beef industry' - Competition Commission

Beef Farmers take part in a previous IFA protest. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Beef Farmers take part in a previous IFA protest. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

There’s no evidence of a cartel at work in the beef industry, The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has stated.

Since 2016, the CCPC has received six complaints about price fixing in the beef industry (one in 2016, four in 2017 and one in 2018) which it investigated but did not find evidence that a cartel was in existence.

“The CCPC has examined a number of complaints and followed various lines of enquiries in the meat processing sector but so far we have not uncovered evidence of a cartel,” CCPC chair Isolde Goggin told the Joint Committee on Agriculture.

“We don’t take these allegations lightly but it’s important to stress the need for tangible evidence and when I say tangible evidence I  say evidence of collusion and that people have gotten together to agree on prices when it comes to dealing with such a serious crime.”

Ms Goggin stated that just because there is a common price amongst sellers that isn’t enough evidence that a cartel is in existence.

Isolde Goggin.JPG
Isolde Goggin, chair of CCPC

“The price being in line is not enough. In markets that are very transparent, and there are many such markets, prices do tend to converge at a market level.

“To take an example, if you go down Moore Street looking for apples, the price for apples is going to be pretty much the same at the top of the street as it is at the bottom of the street and the reason for that is all the buyers and sellers can see each others prices.”

CCPC member Fergal O’ Leary added that he sympathises that farmers feel “very hard done by on prices” and stressed that the CCPC thoroughly examines all complaints made to it and urged if people have complaints with sufficient evidence that a member of its team could meet them at any time or any place.

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This comes following a call made by the IFA for Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to request the CCPC to carry out a report on the lack of competition in the beef processing sector.

 INHFA vice President Brendan Joyce stated that there is a crisis in the beef sector due to factory cartels controlling the price and that farmers on marginal land with no options to diversify are the most vulnerable.

The CCPC has also received a small number of complaints in relation to the Kepak/Glanbia Twenty20 Beef Club in relation to competition breaches but stated that “at this point we don’t have grounds to be concerned that a breach of Competition Law has occurred.

“We will continue to monitor its impact and if any future stage we have concerns we will take action,” added Ms Goggin.

Head of Beef at Glanbia Martin Ryan recently explained that the closed loop element of the scheme was due to increasing consumer demands “driven by the environment and consistency around eating quality”.

Ms Goggin advised that in order for the Unfair Trading Practices Directive recently passed in the EU to be successful a dedicated sectoral body should be established in Ireland to protect the interests of consumers and rebalance power for small farmers in the supply chain.

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