President urges consumers to put an end to ‘destructive’ below-cost food sales in supermarkets

Higgins says shoppers should ‘walk past these artificially-priced products’ and support those producing in sustainable conditions

Consumers have a responsibility to put an end to “destructive retail practices” which see supermarket chains selling food at below the cost of production, President Michael D Higgins has said.

Speaking at the Bloom festival in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, Mr Higgins urged consumers to walk past food which is being sold at a loss.

“We should be willing to walk past these artificially-priced products and support the people who are producing our food in the most sustainable conditions,” he said.

Mr Higgins said using food as a loss leader is “totally contradictory” when the emphasis should be on sustainability.

There are fewer than 100 commercial providers of vegetables left in the country and the number was declining, he said. “I thank them for staying with vegetables in these difficult times. We should be doing all we can to address their needs.”

His comments were welcomed by Irish Farmers’ Association president Tim Cullinan, who said the President was right to call out retailers about the practice.

“It diminishes the value of food in the eyes of consumers. It is destroying the horticulture sector and other sectors which are dependent on the domestic retail market,” he said.

Mr Cullinan said the Government should take heed of the President’s comments and make the upcoming legislation as robust as possible.

“The Agricultural and Food Supply Chain Bill 2022 is currently going for pre-legislative scrutiny,” he said.

The cornerstone of the legislation will be a new Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri-Food Supply Chain which is intended to analyse prices in the food chain.

“Retailers should also respond to the President’s comments. Retailers like to tell us about their corporate responsibility programmes, but the reality is they use artificially-priced food as a loss leader to draw in footfall without consideration of the consequences,” he said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times