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IFA President Joe Healy has welcomed the adoption today (12 March) by the European Parliament of new rules that will ensure the protection of European farmers against unfair trading practices (UTPS) in the food supply chain.

The new European law builds on a proposal tabled by the European Commission and will cover agricultural and food products traded in the food supply chain, banning for the first time up to 16 unfair trading practices imposed unilaterally by one trading partner on another.

The COPA and COGECA Group on the Food Supply Chain chaired Joe Healy in his capacity as a COPA Vice President, drove the campaign on behalf of European farmers on retail dominance and Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs).

“This is a positive result for farmers who have always been subjected to the whims of large retailers. The unfair trading practices to be banned include: late payments for perishable food products; last minute order cancellations; unilateral or retroactive changes to contracts; forcing the supplier to pay for wasted products and refusing written contracts,” said Joe Healy.

The IFA President acknowledged the work Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development has done to achieve this result.

“IFA has campaigned for many years, nationally and in Europe, for a re-balancing of power in the food supply chain. This is crucial to deliver a viable price for farmers, and a return on their work and investment. Many retailers were behaving like modern-day dictatorships, abusing their power to accumulate vast profits. The new rules announced today will re-balance the scale, which is all farmers ever wanted. Another important measure that IFA has called for is the appointment of an independent retail regulator for the food sector.” said Joe Healy.

The Irish Government must now transpose the Directive into Irish Law and IFA wants to see this happen without delay.

Addressing a seminar organised by IFA on Producer Organisations today, IFA President Joe Healy said producer groups have shown their ability to organise farmers very well and negotiate additional top-up bonus prices with processors. However, the meat plants have found a way of undermining this by using very low quoted prices every week.

Joe Healy said, “We are also aware of numerous situations where processors and agents have used every trick in the book to pick off members of producer groups to see if they can divide and break up groups”.

In the livestock and beef sector, both the present Minister Michael Creed and his predecessor Minister Coveney have spoken a lot about the opportunity for beef farmers to set up producer organisations. In theory, this is positive. But the reality is the dominant retailers and meat processors hold all the cards.

Producer Organisations need a lot more support and particularly financial support from the Department of Agriculture. €1,500 to set up a group and €1,500 for legal advice is not sufficient. Groups need ongoing support on an annual basis, especially in the early years to keep going, if they have any chance of being able to stand up to the dominance of the powerful retailers and processors.

The food supply chain is characterised by a concentration of buying power in the hands of a small number of powerful retail groups. In Ireland alone, the top three of SuperValu, Dunnes and Tesco have 67% of retail food sales. Two multinational discounters Aldi and Lidl have another 21.5% share of the market between them.

On the beef processing side, the big three groups of ABP, Dawn and Kepak have 65% of the total market between them.

“As farmers, this is the power of the retail and processing sectors we are up against. IFA wants to support producer organisations, where farmers wish to set up groups. We have registered with the Department of Agriculture as an approved facilitator. We are available to help and assist any group of farmer members wishing to set up a producer organisation in any sector,” he said.

Over the years, the IFA has played a key leadership role in the formation of up to 60 farmer co-operatives in the livestock marts business. We were also key to the establishment of groups and co-operatives in the dairy sector.

IFA was instrumental in the establishment of up to 20 producer groups in the sheep area. Our farmer members were to the fore in the setting up of beef producer groups over the years in Laois, Monaghan, Cork, Longford and Louth.

IFA has also been to the fore across other areas like horticulture, mushrooms and other areas in assisting farmers in forming groups. Family farms are been forced out through globalisation and the constant race to the bottom on prices. Farmers cannot survive the downward price pressure being pushed back against them.

In Ireland, the establishment of co-ops by farmers have proven to be a major success and has delivered in spades for farmers. This is particularly the case in dairy processing and also in livestock marts. It’s not the case in beef, sheep or pig meat processing.

As Chairman of the COPA group on the food chain, I have worked hard at EU level, with Commissioner Hogan in driving change on unfair trading practices and increased transparency across the food chain. We have made some progress, but a lot more needs to be done.

€60,000 has been raised by Mayo IFA in conjunction with Aurivo and McHale Farm Machinery. The funding will go to Cancer Care West for the purchase of a bus that will provide a service for Mayo cancer patients travelling to Galway for treatment.

Pictured at the fundraising draw which took place on Friday March 1st in the Halfway House, Islandeady:

Back Left to Right: Pat Duffy Chairman Aurivo, Cathal Hughes Mayo Man of the Year, Martin Gilvarry Chairman Mayo IFA, Padraic Joyce Regional Chairman IFA, Richard Flaherty CEO Cancer Care West, John Kennedy Purchasing Manager McHale Farm Machinery, Roy O’Brien IFA Regional Executive.

Front Left to right: John Donnelly Former IFA President and Board Member of Cancer Care West, Maria Ryan Mayo IFA County Secretary, IFA President Joe Healy, Michael Ring TD Minister for Community and Rural Affairs and Sean Clarke Mayo IFA County Treasurer.

Speaking in the Cooley Mountains to coincide with the beginning of the lambing season, IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy accused dog owners who allow their pets to roam without restriction, of acting in a grossly irresponsible, reckless and selfish manner.

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IFA President Joe Healy has welcomed the opening up of applications for the National Walks Scheme, which will double the number of national walks and benefit up to 2,000 farmers.

At a meeting in Dublin with the Minister for Community and Rural Development, Michael Ring, the Minister confirmed to IFA that the €2m allocated in last Octobers’ Budget is now available to interested groups for application.

IFA National Hill Committee Chairman, Flor McCarthy said that there are a significant number of walks that will be in a position to apply and it is vital that they qualify without delay. The National Walks Scheme has been a valuable addition to the development of recreational tourism in peripheral areas and supports farmer input in the creation of walking routes.

Minister Ring also confirmed to IFA that labour rate for farmers own work in maintaining the walks will increase from €12.50/hr to €13.50/hr. This will also apply to both existing participants and new participants, including farmers who may be in the middle of their current contracts.

On the National Indemnification Scheme, the Minister confirmed to IFA that the legislation to cover land owners in the event of accident will be published shortly and will be rolled out initially on a pilot basis.

IFA impressed on the Minister, the urgency of getting this legislation through the Dáil, so that farmers and landowners are given all the protection they need from any claim that may arise.

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