Farmers at the Beef Summit and at recent Oireachtas hearings accused factories of forming a “cartel” to fix cattle prices.

Meat Industry Ireland and the minister replied that competition authorities had never found evidence of this.

The Irish Farmers Journal contacted the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and the European Commission (EC), and looked at the recent clearance of the ABP-Slaney merger by the EC and of Dawn Meats’ part takeover of Dunbia by the CCPC. “The CCPC considers both upstream and downstream competition issues,” a spokesperson said.

The CCPC found “there is no evidence of coordinated behaviour” between factories to lower cattle prices, despite farmers’ concerns.

Neither the Irish nor the EU authority have ever blocked a merger in the Irish meat sector.

Most industry sources interviewed expected a negative impact from the ABP-Slaney merger on farmers, but the EC disagreed. Even if factory concentration resulted in lower cattle prices, EU merger rules would allow it as long as consumers benefit: “Increased buyer power can be beneficial to consumers if the reduction in input prices is passed on to consumers,” the EC wrote.

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