Addressing a protest at an M&S store in West Dublin today (14 December), IFA President Joe Healy accused the retailer of gross hypocrisy by slashing the price of fresh produce below the cost of production.
“I want to nail the lie that vegetable and potatoes can be sold below cost without hurting Irish growers and ultimately driving them out of business. Using farm produce as a tool to drive footfall undermines Irish production and the financial viability of specialist growers and producers. The number of field vegetable growers fell from 377 in 1999 to 165 in 2015, a drop of 56% and this trend has continued. Farmers have invested hugely in their businesses to ensure sufficient supplies of fresh Irish produce. This predatory pricing model takes the inherent value out of fresh produce lines, leaving it difficult to ensure sustainable farm gate prices and demeans the category in the minds of the consumer,” said Joe Healy.
The IFA President said, “It’s been a very tough year on producers, with significant extra costs because of the late Spring and the drought conditions during the summer. Reducing the shelf price of some vegetables and potatoes to as low as 20c/kg sends a very misleading message to consumers regarding the costs, risks and skills associated with this sector.”
He pointed out the gross hypocrisy of this practice in light of M&S’s stated commitment to supporting the sector, “It is ironic that in the M&S ‘Farming for the Future’ programme they refer to sustainability and ethical standards. It begs the question as to what is ethical and sustainable about these predatory pricing tactics?”
The President also added that he was disappointed at the lack of support for Irish growers by M&S as he remarked at the number of vegetable lines in the store which were non-Irish.
Joe Healy said the Grocery Goods regulations introduced in 2016 totally neglected to address unsustainable discounting, and he re-iterated IFA’s call on the Enterprise Minister, Heather Humphreys T.D. to address this issue immediately.