Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Éamon Ó Cuív has challenged the Agriculture Minister to take decisive action to ensure that horticulture farmers get a fair price for their produce this Christmas. The Galway West TD raised the matter during Topical Issues in the Dáil last week.

Deputy Ó Cuív explained, “Two years ago, the major food retailers and supermarket multiples created uproar among horticulture farmers when they decided to sell vegetables and fruit at below cost prices in the lead up to Christmas. Horticulture farmers were left short changed as these large retailers sold off fruit and vegetables for only a few cents.

“This Government is failing to protect the primary producer and tackle the inequities in the food supply chain. There will be no future for horticulture producers unless the Minister acts immediately to ban the below cost selling of vegetables, fruit and potatoes.

“When questioned in the Dáil last week, Minister Paudie Coffey refused to examine Fianna Fáil’s proposal of introducing a “Groceries Code Adjudicator”, similar to the one which operates in the UK, which enshrines the protection of primary producers in national law. In effect, this supermarket ombudsman would act as an independent adjudicator and oversee the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers. This would ensure that big supermarkets treat their direct suppliers fairly and abide by the law. It would also have the power to investigate complaints and arbitrate in disputes.

“The obligatory labelling of country of origin on product in supermarkets should also be considered to ensure the consumer is aware of the country of origin of vegetables, fruit and potatoes.

“Minister Simon Coveney appears to be more interested in PR opportunities and foreign trips rather than getting to grips with the problems that farmers on his own doorstep are experiencing. Farmers are seriously contemplating the viability of their sector, as they are finding it increasingly difficult to break even as a result of the multiples’ practice of below cost selling. Fianna Fáil will continue to fight for a fair price for producers to ensure that farmers are protected and supported so that this important industry can continue to grow”.