Poultry farmers “facing closure” are protesting at Aldi and Lidl supermarkets in Cavan town on Thursday.
The protests, organised by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), started at 3.30am and involve a blockade to prevent deliveries at each supermarket. However, the protesters say they are not preventing customers from entering the stores.
Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, egg producer and IFA poultry committee vice-chair Brendan Soden says the protesters are calling for a 2c increase on the price the supermarkets pay them per egg or 24c/dozen.
He described how those protesting will be “there for the night” or until they have an egg price increase commitment from Aldi and Lidl management.
Soden highlighted Teagasc analysis of the current input cost pressures affecting egg producers, which show they will be at a loss of 23c/dozen eggs by the end of the year.
He said the ask to Aldi and Lidl is to allow their egg producers “to go back to break-even” and said that’s “before we even look at profitability”.
“You can’t keep producing something for nothing,” he said.
According to the IFA, a half-dozen free-range eggs sold for €2.19 in 2012 and, today, they are selling for €1.89, a reduction of 15%.
Soden said: “This year alone, agri inputs are up 40.2%, consumer goods are up 9.1% and food price inflation is up 6.8%, according to the CSO. This simply does not add up to securing a supply of Irish produce into the future.”
The poultry farmer warned that “egg producers are strongly considering not restocking their farms at this stage”.
He described how the cost of a laying pullet has risen from €4.60 last year to €5.85 currently and highlighted that this is set to increase to €6.00 after Christmas.
The IFA poultry committee vice-chair said his electricity costs have “tripled” from 22c/unit to 66c to 89c/unit, an increase of almost €4,000 over the course of the year.
Elsewhere, Soden said his feed costs have increased by 40% and that producers are facing another €20/t increase in January.
He criticised the supermarkets for “using eggs as a below-cost seller” and called on Aldi and Lidl to return more to egg producers to enable them to make a living.
He said if price increases aren’t brought forward, “consumers won’t find Irish eggs on the shop shelf in the near future”.
Pig and chicken producers are also joining the protests in Cavan to support the egg sector and to highlight their own ongoing losses at farm level.
IFA pigs chair Roy Gallie said the losses that are mounting continuously on pig farms for the last 400 days are “completely unsustainable”.
“The average-size family farm, even having received Government aid, has an accumulated debt of €380,000.
"Primary producers receive only 15% of the retail price of ham, so I am calling on all retailers to pass back a larger percentage to producers immediately to ensure pig farm survival,” he said.
The IFA warned that chicken producers have been campaigning for cost recovery for a year, including their current call for a further 15c per chicken to be passed back to producers. The association says this has “yet to be fully implemented”.
IFA poultry chair Nigel Sweetnam said it’s a “scandal” that an initial requirement of 15c per chicken has not been delivered to all chicken farmers and now egg producers are facing closure.
“Supporting and securing the future of farmers and their economic viability needs to be taken very seriously.
"Farmer frustration is at boiling point following several unsatisfactory engagements with retailers. Action must be taken immediately or supplies cannot be guaranteed,” he said.