Distinctive 100% label for Irish food proposed in Fine Gael's new policy
A supervisory food and marketing body, tighter controls on food imports, and a distinctive label to identify 100 per cent Irish food, are just some of the proposals announced yesterday by Fine Gael.
It also proposed that tax incentives be used to stimulate producer groups and that other inducements be provided to encourage farmers and producers to work together to achieve the best markets for food.
Denis Naughten, Fine Gael's spokesman on agriculture and food, said the party's rip-off survey last month showed that consumers were paying mark-ups of more than 200 per cent on basic foodstuffs in major supermarkets, while farmers endured falling prices for their produce.
"Large retailers are making huge profits from the Irish market at the expense of both consumers and producers, with the consequence that quality Irish food is being undermined and farmers are at risk of going out of business," he said.
"We must not allow our farmers to be forced out of existence by large multiples always seeking a lower bottom line from farmers, while they, at the same time, handsomely increase their own margins at the expense of farmers and consumers."
Imports of beef, which now accounted for 10 per cent of the domestic market, needed to match Irish standards in every way and it was clear that Irish consumers were mistakenly buying imported beef believing it was Irish.
He said Fine Gael was calling on the Minister for Agriculture to ask the EU Commission to immediately re-examine and define more strictly the term "substantial transformation" to stop the hazardous practice of imports being passed off as Irish produce and to ensure it cannot be open to abuse. Fine Gael was also proposing the immediate introduction of one distinctive label, which, when placed on any product, would make it clearly identifiable as 100 per cent Irish.
Mr Naughten said there was a diversity of State agencies dealing with the food-processing sector. And although each agency provided valuable and effective service, there was a critical need for a high-level State agency to co-ordinate the development of Ireland's agri-food sector into the future.