President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) Pat McCormack has said that the signing into law of EU market transparency rules is a long overdue “step in the right direction”.
However, he stressed that the success of the initiative will be dependent on rigorous implementation.
McCormack pointed out that it is easy to find out the price paid to farmers and that paid by the consumer, but the gap between is a mystery known only by those in the industry, "which is often dubbed 'commercially sensitive information'".
“If the transparency regulations are to be in any way meaningful, they will simply have to get behind the 'commercially sensitive' barrier and publish all the prices paid by the various links in the food supply chain.
"For example, the price paid by retailers for liquid milk - including branded and own-label price; the prices paid for food products - including beef - imported from outside the EU where they have been produced at lower standards.
"Let’s finally see who is getting what and start dealing on the basis of clear facts.
"There is absolutely no reason why these figures cannot be published with the 'commercially sensitive' issue dealt with by anonymising the data,” he continued.
McCormack said that for too long, the powerful links in the middle of the food supply chain have been able to dictate ‘backwards’ to farmers and ‘forward’ to consumers, with only themselves knowing the full picture and margin-map.
That, he said, has to end and this law will provide the means for so doing, if correctly enforced.
“So many of these corporations are spending enormous budgets aimed at ‘green washing’ their business profile and polishing very flimsy ‘sustainability’ credentials.
"[The] ICMSA has long pointed out that the best way of ensuring sustainability on food production would be by paying the farmer a sustainable price,” he added.
McCormack also noted that farm input inflation is becoming an issue and the extent of transparency in the supply of farm inputs now needs to be studied.
“We need to know who is adding what to the price we receive on the food leaving our farms and we need to know who has added what to the prices we pay for our farm inputs. Both are mysteries at present,” he concluded.