Commenting on the publication of the draft Grocery Goods regulations, the Deputy President of ICMSA, Pat McCormack, said that any move to rebalance the presently hopelessly skewed system away from retailers and towards primary producers and farmers was greatly to be welcome, and accordingly there would be a degree of optimism around at least the intentions evident in the draft regulations. But Mr McCormack said there was a degree of scepticism about whether the Government was in earnest about rebalancing a system that presently gave the multiple retailers practically complete powers to name their price ‘backwards’ to the producers and ‘forwards’ to the consumer to the disadvantage of the latter and, in many cases, the ruination of the former. Mr McCormack said that practice of using staples like milk as so-called ‘loss-leaders’ had resulted in year-on-year declines in the share of final retail price going to the milk dairy farmers and he cited the decline from 43% in 1995 to 32% in 2012.
The ICMSA Deputy President also expressed reservations about the appetite of the Competition & Consumer Protection Agency for what Mr McCormack said was bound to be an intense and complex struggle to rebalance the relationship between primary producer and retailer. He said that confidence in the new agency – formerly known as the Competition Authority – had been severely dented by their intervention in the Beef Dispute when their statement about the need to respect competition had the real effect of shoring up the meat factories position and policymakers’ inactivity. Mr McCormack said that ICMSA had, at that time, described the intervention as “brass necked” and the Competition & Consumer Protection Agency had much work to do if they were to convince farmers that they had the appetite and the expertise for the struggle involved in regulating corporations of enormous wealth and power. The ICMSA Deputy President said that talk was cheap and farmers would wait to see what the Competition & Consumer Agency actually did –if anything.
The ICMSA Deputy President concluded by welcoming the publication of the regulations for consultation and he said that he did not doubt Minister Bruton’s bone fides but he felt – along with most other commentators – that meaningful rebalancing of the EU’s food supply system back from the retailers and towards the farmer –producers would only really work if that rebalancing originated and was supervised by the EU Commission.
“The retail corporations involved in the wholesale abuses we see are all multi and trans-national and the ability of any one Member State to take them on must be open to question: The problem is multinational and the solution will have to be multinational also. In our context that means – that has to mean – that the Commission takes the lead and begins to consciously rebalance the EU’s food supply chain back towards some degree of equity and fairness to the people who actually produce the food as opposed to the corporations who presently have more or less complete power over the process from farmer to fork”, said Mr McCormack.
Ends 22 December 2014.
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office