TRADERS at the historic English Market in Cork city have refuted claims that they are "exorbitantly overcharging" customers, insisting that products are competitively priced especially given the superior quality of produce on sale.
In a letter sent to elected representatives and Failte Ireland, one consumer said she had been "fleeced" by stallholders during her first visit to the historic market, which got worldwide publicity after a visit from Queen Elizabeth last May.
The customer spent a staggering €49 on a 100ml jar of pate, a chorizo sausage, two five-packs of rashers, a batch loaf, 15 scallops and 15 shrimp.
"I have lived in Paris and London and I have always supported artisan producers. Everyone said the dinner I made was lovely and the food is of a high standard but it seemed exorbitantly priced. I was in a hurry so I just paid and left. Everyone was pleasant but I won't be going back there again. The bill left a sour taste that entirely overshadowed the produce," said the consumer last week.
However, Tom Durcan, the chairman of the English Market Traders Association, strenuously defended the market, insisting that stallholders were shocked at the claims, as products are keenly priced.
"You can buy pate in supermarkets for peanuts. If you want specialised pate, it is obviously going to be dearer. It is not mass-produced pate -- it is being made by hand. It is exceptional stuff. With fish, it is coming straight off the trawler. The fish are only a couple of hours old. Whereas if you buy fish in a supermarket, it is four or five days old."
Mr Durcan said stallholders were sorely disappointed at the woman's decision to send a letter to newspapers, radio stations, TDs and tourist interests, as they take great pride in their work.
Meanwhile, a manager at one of the two stalls named in the letter said he was perplexed by the woman's actions. "I would hate to think anyone would leave here upset. Nothing was said. I would often discuss budgets with people and what they can afford. We were amazed when we got the letter," he said.
Another stallholder, Pat O'Connell, who was among those who greeted Queen Elizabeth during her historic visit, said he was "very surprised" by the letter.
"There is a huge range of products in the market. There is a price for every palate, is how I would describe it. There are very special foods here."