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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.

Ahead of the two biggest shopping weekends of the year, IFA President Joe Healy has warned retailers against discounting fresh produce in the run-up to Christmas.

“Using farm produce as a tool to drive footfall undermines Irish production and the financial viability of specialist growers and producers. Farmers have invested hugely in their businesses to ensure sufficient supplies of fresh Irish produce for Christmas. Retailers have to respect this investment.”

Launching IFA’s Christmas Food Producers’ campaign on a farm in north Dublin that grows parsnips, cauliflower and cabbage, Joe Healy said it’s been a very tough year, with significant extra costs because of the drought conditions during the summer. “At the time, retailers supported growers because they understood the pressures that existed. We are asking for retailers to show similar backing between now & Christmas”.

“Let’s remember that when Ireland was hit by a snowstorm last March, supermarket shelves immediately ran out of milk and bread – two products that Irish consumers expect to be available.”

IFA has denounced the unsustainable discounting of fresh milk by retailers. Milk at 65c-67c/l is less than it costs to produce, process and put on the shelf.

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 to introduce an independent retail regulator.

IFA Horticulture Chairman Paul Brophy has welcomed the recent launch of the 2019 Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector by Minister Andrew Doyle. He said the scheme was essential for the continued development and competitiveness of the Irish horticulture sector.

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IFA President Joe Healy said the cynical intervention by the EuroCommerce group to try and block the European Parliament from introducing a ban on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) by retailers must be resisted.

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IFA President Joe Healy has welcomed the Government report on the review of economic migration policy. The objective of the review was to consider the rationale for the employment permit system where the economy is improving and the labour market is tightening, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

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