Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív TD, says he is hugely concerned with reports that supermarkets are rejecting ‘ugly’ fruit and has called on Minister Simon Coveney to investigate further.
It has been claimed that supermarkets in Ireland are rejecting “unmarketable” fruit from farmers despite the fact that the poor weather conditions this summer have led to farmers struggling to harvest their crops.
Deputy Ó Cuív commented: “The issue of the treatment of farmers by supermarkets is one of major concern. I have heard that so-called ‘ugly’ food, like irregularly shaped potatoes, is being rejected and this is wholly unacceptable.
“With the terrible weather we have had this summer, the policy would make a high percentage of produce, as much as 25%, unmarketable which directly affects farmers’ incomes. Furthermore, it increases the cost of food as farmers have to get higher prices for their acceptable produce to make ends meet.
“This practice by supermarkets of rejecting good food on aesthetic grounds rather than on nutritional grounds is morally wrong. Many farmers fear the supermarket chains and are not willing to confirm how wide spread these practises are. I fear it is widespread.
“The supermarket chains are also using their muscle to squeeze milk suppliers too and force them into uneconomic production. Milk should not be a loss leader, we need a long-term sustainable price to ensure the Irish dairy sector can function to its capacity.
“I am calling on Minister Coveney to outline what he is doing to ensure the strong bargaining position of the major supermarket chains is not used unfairly in squeezing milk producers and rejecting produce from farmers.
“I intend asking the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture to examine these issues as a matter of urgency in the new term. This will involve calling on farmers’ representatives, manufacturers, supermarket bosses and experts from Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture to appear before the committee to explore all opinions. Recommendations will then be made to the Minister of Agriculture and other relevant Ministers.
“I would also suggest the Committee look into establishing a ‘Supermarket Ombudsman’ to look into the practices of supermarkets and to ascertain if they are in breach of Irish and European competition law,” concluded Deputy Ó Cuív.