Let them eat carrots: protesting farmers give out free vegetables
IFA disputes claims by retailers that farmers are not picking up the tab
Members ofthe IFA protest over supermarket pricing in Dunnes Stores, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Farmers staged a street protest in Dublin today against supermarkets selling vegetables very cheaply. A group of farmers marched into Dunnes Stores in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green Centre and bought a trolley load of heavily discounted bags of carrots and parsnips.
They handed them out to passersby, with Irish Farmers’ Association president John Bryan telling them Dunnes was almost giving out the produce for free, so farmers might as well give it away for nothing. The IFA action was held to highlight the supermarket price war which has seen the price of vegetables fall to as low as 5 cent per kilo in some outlets. Dunnes Stores is selling carrots for 6 cent per bag.
‘Shame on you’
Several hundred IFA members stood outside the shopping centre and chanted “Dunnes Stores, shame on you”. Similar actions were staged in other Dunnes Stores and Lidl outlets. Lidl and Aldi are selling one-kilo bags of carrots for 5 cent each.
While Dunnes Stores has not commented on the issue, Lidl and Aldi have insisted they are absorbing the costs of the promotion. Passerby Deirdre Judge from Skerries praised the farmers for taking a stand as she took a bag of carrots and tray of parsnips from a farmer.
“I have an allotment and I totally appreciate that the farmers are annoyed about this,” she said. “If you knew the time and work it took to grow the vegetables you’d understand it,” she said.
Mr Bryan said vegetable growers were afraid to speak up because they would be delisted by the supermarkets. One potato farmer told him his price had fallen from €250 a tonne last week to €120 yesterday. “He said if he stood up and said that, he would be delisted.”
Another potato grower told him he was getting €299 a tonne four weeks ago. “His net price this week is €100 a tonne. That’s absolutely undermining his income,” he said.
“Retailers always say they are footing the bill. When they do a promotion for the first week they don’t drop the price for the farmer but the week after they say ‘This is now the market price’,” he said.
“They are conning the consumer. . . all the retailers do is to use cheap food to haul them in and rip them off on something else,” he said.
Earlier the farmers protested outside the office of Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton over his failure to introduce a code of conduct to prevent below-cost selling.
Mr Bryan accused Mr Bruton of “dithering on regulation, while retailers abuse their dominant position and decimate jobs and small businesses as they vie for footfall with unsustainable prices for fresh food”.
Meanwhile, SuperValu said it would donate €100,000 from its fruit and vegetable sales this Christmas to Focus Ireland and would not be reducing the price of its carrots, sprouts and melons any lower than 19 cent.
The retailer said it was concerned the race to the bottom on price by some of its competitors was a step too far.