The competition watchdog has come in for criticism over a letter it sent to the Beef Plan Movement in which the group was warned it may be in breach of consumer law.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) enforces competition and consumer protection law in Ireland and it wrote to the Beef Plan on Friday 9 August after a fortnight of farmer protests outside factory gates.
The letter stated: “The CCPC is concerned that the Beef Plan Movement and its members could have engaged, or could be engaging, in conduct that potentially breaches provisions of the Competition Act 2002 (as amended) (the “2002 Act”).”
The Beef Plan has suspended its protests pending talks with the Department of Agriculture and factory representatives, which take place on Monday 12 August.
The group is seeking engagement on a list of 13 issues, none of which relate to the price paid per kilo.
Other farm organisations have reacted angrily to the CCPC’s letter.
ICSA president Edmond Phelan slammed the threat of legal action by the watchdog against the Beef Plan in advance of Monday’s talks.
He said the CCPC had “some brass neck” terrorising a group of farmers after it gave the green light to a takeover of the Slaney Group by ABP.
Phelan said: "It is time for an Oireachtas investigation into the CCPC to enquire why they are threatening powerless farmers whose position, year after year, has continuously worsened to its current desperate state.
"Meanwhile, the beef processing sector, dominated by three big players who are also in a dominant position in the UK, are let manipulate prices to their hearts’ content.”
IFA president Joe Healy said the letter sent by the CCPC to the Beef Plan Movement showed that current rules and enforcement structures were “a complete joke”.
He said the CCPC should be replaced by a new regulator who acted for all parties in the supply chain.
Healy said: “If anyone needs to be investigated, it is the meat factories.
"The Competition Authority has previously raided the IFA offices and threatened us and other farmers on numerous occasions.
"The CCPC is not fit for purpose from a farmer’s point of view.”
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