Shop charges to suppliers 'outrageous', says Gilmore


THE BIG supermarket demands for money from suppliers to display food on their shelves was “like the kind of thing you expect to see in the Sopranos”, Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore has said.

He described the practice as “outrageous extortion” when he addressed a conference on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy in Tipperary.

“In relation to agriculture and food, the free market can be good for consumers and for farmers. But left to do what it pleases, it can be bad for both,” he said.

“Take the outrageous extortion of the big multiples in the supermarket business. Powerful dominant players such as Tesco are extorting huge sums of money from Irish suppliers in exchange for the privilege of getting their food onto supermarket shelves,” he said.

“It is the kind of thing you would expect to see in the Sopranos,” he told the delegates attending the conference in the Tipperary Institute.

“It is bad for suppliers including farmers who cannot get their produce onto the shelves of major supermarkets. It is bad for consumers whose choice is reduced. It must stop,” he said.

He said Labour’s insistence on controlling some of the behaviour of supermarket multiples did not mean they were against the existence of these large-scale players.

“For many consumers large supermarkets can provide value and convenience, with economies of scale allowing them to provide consumers with cheaper prices, and the best of luck to them,” said Mr Gilmore.

On the CAP, Mr Gilmore said as it moved more and more away from direct support for farmers, it could have a new role in protecting and enhancing rural life.

“There needs to be recognition for small businesses in rural Ireland, and the CAP is one potential source of such recognition and support,” he said.

“We cannot hope to preserve and develop sustainable communities throughout rural Ireland unless the core economic activity in rural Ireland – farming – is in a healthy and sustainable condition,” said the Labour leader.

“The critical thing farmers need is a market for their produce. And I know from talking to farmers that they want a real market,” he went on.

He said as the debate on the reform of the CAP was beginning it should not be forgotten despite all the welcome development of new industries, of information technology and knowledge based enterprise, Ireland remained a food-producing country.