'Retailers are the modern-day dictators abusing their power to accumulate vast profits', says IFA President
This year will be a defining year for farming, the IFA President Joe Healy has told the Association's AGM in Dublin today, who said that farmers are not getting a fair share for their produce and retailers are the modern-day dictators abusing their power to accumulate vast profits.
Addressing the 63 Annual General Meeting of the Irish Farmers Association IFA President Joe Healy said 2018 never before have such major challenges as Brexit, the CAP Budget, Mercosur and climate change converged in a single year. He said IFA will be there to represent the interests of all farmers.
And he warned that farmers are not getting a fair share of the retail price. “The figures don’t lie: the retailer takes 51% of the final price, the processor gets 28%, but the farmer only gets 21pc.
“Retailers are the modern-day dictators abusing their power to accumulate vast profits. The more-established retailers have been joined recently by Iceland who seem hell bent on putting every Irish fresh food producer out of business with reckless and unsustainable discounting on fresh food.
“It’s all about accumulating profits at the expense of farmers and primary producers, and ultimately consumers. The recent CAP consultation process showed that 97pc of EU consumers are in favour of the farmer getting a better share of the retail price.
"Commissioner Hogan has done good work in this area. But we need to see more.”
Joe Healy said 45 years ago this country took a leap of faith and became part of the then European Economic Community (EEC). It has been positive for farming and for Ireland.
“The next 12 months will be a test of the European Union’s commitment to our sector. We expect Europe to stand by farmers and acknowledge the support Irish farmers have shown towards the European Union."
He told the AGM that post-Brexit cannot have a scenario where the UK Government can do as they please as regards agricultural trade with three countries. “If the UK wants continued access to the EU market, the EU must insist that the UK will not be free to open their markets to low standard or low value products from outside the EU.”
Mr Healy said, “For the Irish agri food sector, the focus needs to be on the relationship between the EU and the entirety of the UK. North-South Regulatory alignment will help to solve one problem of the hard border in Ireland. East-West Regulatory Alignment has the potential to deliver a lot more – to avoid major disruption for Irish food exporters to our largest market, Britain”.
Joe Healy said there must be a strong CAP budget after 2020 and it must have two elements: direct payments supporting active farmers, and a well-funded Rural Development Programme. The IFA President warned against a situation where EU farmers have their incomes cut because the UK decided to leave.
“Without a strong CAP, Irish beef, sheep and tillage farmers in particular will go out of business. We cannot let this happen. We must also remember that the CAP has delivered hugely for EU consumers. It has also delivered significant environmental and social benefits for the entire community. Now is the moment for this Government and our Taoiseach to show their mettle by standing up for the CAP.”
Joe Healy said Irish farmers have been, and continue to be, ‘wide awake’ on these issues. Nine out of every ten measures under the CAP have specific environmental or sustainability elements.
He said farmers are playing their part and we will continue to do so. “However, any ask of us has to be logical. It has to be practical. And it must be in tandem with our role as food producers and as the businesses which generate much-needed economic activity in rural areas”.
He said that it is s incredibly frustrating for farmers is to hear so much emphasis on climate issues by key European politicians, while at the same time they are proposing to give Mercosur countries, including Brazil, more access to the European market.
“Producing a kilo of beef in Brazil leaves four times the carbon footprint of a kilo of beef produced in Ireland. Therefore, cutting our beef output to allow Brazil increase theirs, is reckless and makes no sense. It’s a message we will continue to make to Trade Commissioner Malmstrom and the EU Commission.”
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