KERRY and Cork farmers, who have herds of 70 cows, are paying up to €1,000 per annum more for veterinary medicines than their counterparts in Northern Ireland, according to ICMSA Deputy President John Comer.
The claim is based on direct price comparisons, carried out for the ICMSA, for identical branded veterinary products. The survey found that farmers in the Republic were paying no less than 58 per cent more for the Penstrep antibiotic and 18 per cent more for Closamectin Even a standard product, like Deosan teat dip, was 46 per cent more expensive in the Republic, according to the survey.
The ICMSA price survey, carried out earlier this year, involved comparisons between veterinary practices north and south of the border.
"This price comparison underlines once again the rip-off and uncompetitive practices which the Government are allowing to continue. The massive mark-up on veterinary medicines is part of a professional monopoly which the Government is not alone failing to address buts actually supports and condones. One need only look at the 'closed shop' arrangement for routine animal testing on farms and inspections at meat factories where vets are given an entirely unnecessary monopoly, " Mr Comer said.
"We have pointed out repeatedly to the Government that in the UK — the best possible comparison available to us in these matters — lay technicians are allowed to deliver both these services without any visible deterioration in the standards. Why must we persist with a system that charges farmers more for no obvious purpose other than the featherbedding of professionals? It's time we had some straight answers," stated Mr Comer.
"It's no longer tolerable if ever it was to be told by government departments that they feel that it's not their responsibility to correct the markets. I am directly challenging the Department of Agriculture to take on the task of reducing the cost of veterinary medicines and services to farmers with the same vigour and determination that the Minister for Health showed when she took on the pharmacies. There is a saving to be gained, virtually overnight, of at least 40 per cent. We want it and we're entitled to it," he said.
Mr Comer said that it was now time to allow veterinary products that are licensed in the UK, and particularly products that are for sale in Northern Ireland, to be used in the Republic.