Commenting on recommendations made by the Agricultural Markets Task Force (AMTF), the ICMSA President, John Comer, said that it was difficult to see where the report went past bemoaning the self-evident unfairness and deficiencies of the present system and into the area of hard, concrete steps aimed at halting and reversing the dominance of corporate retailers over every other element in the food-supply chain. Mr Comer noted the lack of urgency everywhere apparent in both the report and, even more notably, in the Commissioner’s response in which the report is described as a “welcome addition to the debate” to which “consideration” would be given. The ICMSA President said that this didn’t bode well for the prospects of this report being turned into any kind of meaningful action that would prevent what he called the inexorable, year-on-year, relentless, margin-grabbing that had seen farmer share of final retail beef price fall by 8% in just the last year and by 10% since 2013. In addition, the report seems to absolve the EU and the CAP from putting resources in place to protect farm families and instead places the onus more vaguely on the marketplace and futures markets, amongst others, to address the problem. This will not work, said Mr. Comer.
“The reality is that the Commission is always going to struggle to contain the retail corporations if they approach the question along the line of UTPs. It’s effectively impossible to prove that a normal question of one party agreeing to sell at a given price and another party agreeing to buy at a given price represents an unfair trading practice. A much more effective way has to be a mandatory minimum price per litre that identifies the cost of production in each Member State and then sets out a price on the basis of ‘Costs/ Plus’ where the ‘plus’ elements recognises and protects an income commensurate with the work, investment and skill levels required. We have to start out from the position that it’s no longer feasible to expect dairy farmers to go 18 months to two years receiving a price for their milk below the costs of production – as has been the case all over the EU since mid 2014. The same applies to the beef, tillage and pig sectors over the last year. That has to be the starting point and we have to work backwards from that. Unfortunately, there’s no really tangible sign that the Commission is willing to start there and the suspicion must be that the ‘cheap food’ policy that has been the prime consideration so far will continue in that role”, he said.
“While the report acknowledges the problems, I do not believe it has really advanced workable solutions for farm families”, he concluded.
Ends 16 November 2016.
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office