The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) President Tim Cullinan has described a meeting held on Tuesday with Dunnes Stores management on the issues facing the sector as “a straight talking, but constructive engagement.”
Representatives of the IFA met with management of Dunnes Stores at their head office in Great George’s Street to discuss possible price increases. Farmers report that they are struggling to keep their livelihoods afloat amid ever increasing feed and energy costs.
Mr Cullinan said that they outlined their concerns to management at Dunnes
“We made it clear to the senior management in Dunnes that there is a real urgency around addressing rising costs at farm level,” he said.
The IFA put a number of proposals to Dunnes Stores and it is understood they have committed to come back shortly with a detailed response.
The IFA has also held meetings with management of Tesco, Centra, Supervalu and Lidl in recent days to press their case for higher prices for farmers.
The IFA had earlier agreed to end protests outside two Dunnes Stores branches when the meeting was agreed.
Farmers had been protesting on Monday and overnight at Bishopstown in Cork and Monaghan. Customers had been prevented from entering shops but staff were allowed in.
“The blockade was about engagement and a phone call came through to our office from Anne Heffernan the managing director of Dunnes Stores. We have agreed to a meeting with Anne and her team at Great George’s Street in Dublin at their head office at five o’clock this evening,” he had said earlier in the day.
Pig, poultry and horticulture farmers are being badly affected by inflation, as the cost of food production, along with animal feed, fuel and fertiliser has increased, according to Mr Cullinan.
Farmers are asking for a 15 cent price increase onto the cost of a chicken, according to Mr Cullinan, as well as 2 cent onto the price of an egg and 50 cent on a kilo of pork, which would work out as a few cents per pack of ham. “It’s not about driving a massive price increase for the consumer,” he said.
“It’s a little of the retail price redistributed back along the food supply chain, which goes back to the primary producer. It would solve this problem.”
IFA Poultry Chairman Nigel Sweetnam said that other retailers have met with IFA and acknowledged the issue of rising costs, but they too need to act.
“We cannot survive at current prices.” he said.
IFA Pigs Chairman Roy Gallie said that pig farmers also need retailers and the Government to step up. “Pig farmers are in a vice-like grip with feed price increases on one side and falling prices on the other,” he said.
Mr Cullinan said other retailers, such as Tesco, SuperValu, Centra and Lidl, have sat down with the IFA to discuss the retail sector giving price increases to suppliers to address cost increases at farm level.
He said retailers engaging in below-cost selling means that farmers are not making enough of a profit on the food they produce. “We need to redraw the distribution of the margin. Our farmers are going to go out of business.”
Mr Cullinan added that the Minister for Agriculture and the Government need to introduce legislation to prevent below-cost selling. “Meats, our vegetables have been used as loss leaders, liquid milk as well, in retailers, driving down the price farmers are receiving.”
He said farmers have “had enough” and are bringing the issue to a head. “We want the Minister to intervene, we want all the key stakeholders up along the food chain to engage with us.”
He added it was about protecting an entire industry, as well as rural Ireland.
the organisation’s Poultry Committee Chairman, Nigel Sweetnam, said that farmers in that sector cannot survive at current prices.
“Farmers are looking for 15 cent a chicken and 2 cent an egg. That is to cover the farmers section. The processor has incurred major costs as well. We are faced with escalating costs and we have no recovery from it.
“Our biggest issue here is the use of Irish poultry as a loss leader and the below cost selling of poultry and that can’t be allowed to continue in to the future.
Meanwhile, Irish Pigs Chairman Roy Gallie told Cork’s 96FM that pig farmers need urgent action.
“Pig farmers are in a vice-like grip with feed price increases on one side and falling prices on the other.
“In all business communication is key. If we have good communication we will be able to sort any problems with have. My father in his day sat outside Dáil Eireann to embarrass Charlie Haughey and we are still at it. Having to do it.
“It is very serious. The average pig farmer stands to lose close to half a million pounds between the twelve months from last September to this August. The costs incurred on pig farmers for feed have gone through the roof. We are bearing a huge cost which is leaving us unsustainable. The price we get for our pigs is not paying for even the food we feed them.”