Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Farmer producer group limits are 'restrictive'

Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Membership restrictions could undermine the new producer organisations (POs) being set up to give farmers collective bargaining powers, an industry expert has warned.

The Department of Agriculture is drawing up legislation to establish the groups as legal bodies within the beef sector.

At the recent Beef Roundtable, Department officials outlined proposals setting a minimum limit of 50 members for each PO whose members would also have to commit to selling 75pc of their cattle through the PO.

However, agri-business consultant Ciaran Dolan said a minimum of 50 members is "far too high and would be restrictive".

He said the new legislation would be a strong step in strengthening the negotiating abilities of farmers without falling foul of the Competition Authority.

But he urged Minister Simon Coveney to consider a lower minimum number to fully empower farmers.

"A high minimum number would not deliver on this and would not be in keeping with the spirit and purpose of the relevant EU legislation."

He added that many farmers would be reluctant to become involved in such large groups.

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Tipperary-based agri-consultant Richard Rea also urged the department not to place any unnecessary barriers on farmers looking to form a PO.

He suggested that the department look at the UK regulations that allow milk POs to be established with a minimum of 10 members.

"This is a sensible number and should be followed in Ireland," he said, adding there would be nothing to stop farmers setting up larger groups if they wished.

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