11 AUGUST 2019
ICSA president Edmond Phelan has slammed the CCPC (Competition and Consumer Protection Commission) for threatening legal action against the Beef Plan Movement in advance of talks to resolve the beef dispute on Monday. “The CCPC has some brass neck to go terrorising a group of farmers after giving the green light to the ABP group to further consolidate their dominant position by taking over the Slaney Group in 2016. At that time, the effect was to consolidate 26% of the total cattle kill under one single ownership,” he said.
“It is time for an Oireachtas investigation into the CCPC to enquire why they are threatening powerless farmers whose position – year after year – has continuously worsened to its current desperate state. Meanwhile the beef processing sector, dominated by three big players who are also in a dominant position in the UK are let manipulate prices to their hearts’ content.
The CCPC was like a lamb in dealing with processors, but is acting like a wolf with a group of farmers who are on their knees. A couple of thousand cattle farmers have stood outside the gates of meat factories over the past two weeks, out of a total of over 100,000. How can this be seen as cartel like behaviour?
The dogs in the street know where to look to find the cartel in the beef chain and it’s not among the 100,000 helpless primary producers who are being forced out of business. In fact, if the CCPC wants to cite basic competition economics, they should be easily able to determine that there is perfect competition among farmers in economic terms which means that they have no influence on price.
Their suggestion that protesting farmers could have ‘a serious effect on Irish consumers’ is farcical in the extreme. On the contrary, farmers are saying that the food chain is rigged to manipulate profits for processors and retailers while farmers go bankrupt.
Moreover, to make such an audacious claim, the CCPC must be wilfully ignoring the purpose of EU regulation 1308/2013 which actively encourages the setting up of beef producer groups to jointly sell beef, provided that each individual group does not account for more than 15% of the total national production. A few thousand farmers protesting for two weeks outside meat plants is a long way from controlling 15% of national production.
The CCPC would have some job to prove that the average suckler farmer who makes €8,000 per annum is the problem for consumers rather than processors who have built empires worth billions or retailers such as TESCO who have recorded a 34% increase in profits (£2.21 billion) in the year to February 2019.
It is even more laughable that the CCPC should cite the Beef Plan Movement which is only in existence a few months and which does not have a monopoly on beef farmer representation. In fact, there are five recognised farm representative associations who have cattle farming members in addition to the loose alliance of farmers who have protested under the Beef Plan banner in recent days. It is clear that no farm organisation has anywhere near a monopoly position in telling farmers what to do.”