IFA accuses Competition and Consumer Protection Commission of protecting big business at expense of farmers
New commission says it has 'stepped in to remind both the beef processors and farmers of their obligations under competition legislation'
24 November 2014
At a protest by the IFA Executive Council outside the offices of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in Dublin last week on Tuesday, 18 November, IFA president Eddie Downey said the intervention by the commission in the beef dispute has greatly angered farmers. Downey said the commission’s actions had convinced farmers that it is only interested in protecting big business that are denying farmers a fair return from the market.
The IFA president said the tone and timing of the Commission’s letter and press release have ensured that the newly merged agency has got off to a bad start with farmers, exhibiting precisely the same bias in favour of big business, i.e., retailers and processors that it saw from the outgoing Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.
Downey said it is a matter of fact that the Commission’s predecessors have a poor record in their dealings with farmers in all sectors, with no action taken to curb the power of retail multiples which are exerting constant downward pressure on farm-gate prices in many cases below the cost of production.
He claimed the National Consumer Agency clearly supported the race to the bottom on producer prices last Christmas when it welcomed the retailers’ outrageous 5 cent per kilo give-aways of Irish vegetables. He also asked why the Competition Commission has not investigated why Irish farmers are getting up to €350 per head less for their cattle than their counterparts in the UK.
On 12 November, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission issued a press release stating it had written to relevant parties in the Irish beef sector following recent activity to remind them of their obligations under competition law – in the interests of consumers.
The commission said it had contacted parties “as a pre-emptive step given the potential that planned discussions could move into competition-sensitive areas, for example in relation to fixing prices or anti-competitive collective action. We have stepped in to remind both the beef processors and farmers of their obligations under competition legislation.”
The commission will also keep under review the impact of any actions or agreements on the supply chain and on consumers.