Supermarkets have ‘super power’ over farmers – Commissioner Phil Hogan
The Commissioner was speaking at a Food Safety Authority of Ireland conference in Dublin on Friday.

Supermarkets have a disproportionate leverage over primary producers of food, which must be addressed, European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has said.

Speaking at the FSAI Safeguarding The Food Chain conference in Dublin Castle on Friday, Commissioner Hogan said supermarkets now enjoy “super power” due to the twin effect of increased globalisation and a high level of concentration within Europe.

“The imbalance of bargaining power between price-setters and price-takers is stark,” he highlighted. “Leading to a situation where there is a real fear factor for farmers of commercial retaliation, late payments and other headaches.”

Fear factor

Commissioner Hogan said that the farmers’ share of what EU consumers spend on food is being continuously squeezed, due to the “clear imbalance of power between producers and other links of the food supply chain”.

He warned that regulators and policymakers can never afford to lose sight of one fact: without the primary producer, there is no food supply chain.

“And primary producers can only do their vital work if they receive a fair buck for their work,” he added.

“A well-functioning food supply chain is essential for our society. Farming, food processing, retail and food service represent over 44m jobs in 14m businesses across the EU,” he said.

“This is one of our biggest employment sectors. And our consumers can only be guaranteed a reliable food supply if farmers are guaranteed a reliable income and a fair share of the pie.”

Tackling unfair trading practices

Commissioner Hogan referred to planned moves to tackle unfair trading practices, and said the Commission is now moving to the next step of drafting a legislative proposal.

“It is my sincere hope that all the stakeholders who recognise the problem will also proactively support the potential solution.”

Read more

Food chain reform moves closer

Long road to tackle unfair trading practices

TDs want CCTV and stronger garda presence to fight rural crime
A community CCTV scheme remains under-subscribed and the number of gardaí deployed to rural areas remains too low, opposition TDs have said.

Delivery of community CCTV schemes, a more visible garda presence and tougher laws on bail, legal aid and trespassing are needed to combat rural crime, according to a motion introduced by Tipperary independent TD Mattie McGrath on behalf of the Rural Independent Alliance .

All opposition parties supported the initiative put forward in the Dáil on Tuesday night, with most speakers highlighting poor deployment of CCTV networks promised in the Programme for Government.

CCTV schemes

While the motion stated that only four communities had received approval to deploy CCTV since 2017, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality David Stanton corrected this, saying 20 grant applications were now approved.

The scheme is too difficult for local communities to operate and implement

However, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork south west Margaret Murphy O'Mahony pointed out that only €430,000 was spent out of the €2m available for the scheme.

"It is stil the case that the CCTV scheme that was rolled out many years ago by the Government is being under-utilised, in particular because the scheme is too difficult for local communities to operate and implement," said Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan.

Several TDs also urged the Government to install CCTV cameras with number plate recognition on motorways and bridges to monitor criminal gang movements.

Trespassing law under review

On trespassing, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the law is "under constant review" and agreed to engage with TDs on the issue, but argued that existing legislation is "robust". Kildare south Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O'Loughlin said: "There appears to be some correlation throughout the country, in particular in counties close to Dublin which contain rural areas, between people coming to hunt and stalk and robberies happening at a later stage."

A number of TDs also highlighted cases of crimes committed by repeat offenders on bail, with ministers saying that recent legislation has made it easier for judges to refuse bail.

Government to tighten legal aid

Several speakers also criticised the cost of legal aid for repeat criminals. While Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton said legal aid is essential to ensure prosecution can happen without claims of an unfair trial, he added that his department was preparing a bill to introduce more rigorous means testing.

Most speakers called for a more visible garda presence in rural areas, but Minister Flanagan said this was the responsibility of the Garda commissioner.

The Dáil is scheduled to vote on the motion on Thursday.

Read more

Calls for review of trespass laws to strengthen farmers' rights

Men and dogs attack sheep in Co Tipperary

Over 800 trespassing incidents on land and yards

Gusts of up to 90km/hr forecast for the southwest
Met Eireann has issued a status yellow wind warning for counties in the southwest.

A status yellow wind warning has been issued for Cork and Kerry. West to northwest winds will reach mean speed between 50km/h and 65km/h, with gusts up to 90km/h, according tob Met Eireann. Winds will be strongest along coasts.

The warning is valid from midday Wednesday to 5pm.

Read more

Watch: thoughts turn to calving and grass in Louth

New research to select best cows from their milk
Teagasc has obtained funding to identify the most efficient cows in the national herd for breeding, while a new UCD project will investigate the processing of agricultural waste.

Science Foundation Ireland has announced €10.8m in Government funding for new research by younger scientists and PhD students, with two of the 20 projects selected directly useful to Irish farmers.

Geneticist Sinéad McParland from Teagasc Moorepark has been awarded €375,873 to establish the tools necessary to identify Ireland's most efficient dairy cows from which to breed future generations of animals.

Her project will use infrared spectroscopy as a low-cost solution to identify those cows producing higher milk solids from lower feed inputs.

"This will yield a more efficient and sustainable national herd benefiting producers, processors and consumers nationally and internationally," the project description reads.

High value from farm waste

Meanwhile, Amanda Sosa-Avendano of UCD will investigate new ways of transforming agricultural waste into high-value low-carbon products.

She has obtained €403,167 for her project, which will analyse existing and new agri-waste supply chains.

"The agricultural sector is the major contributor to the overall greenhouse emissions in Ireland and is currently in the process to incorporate environmental considerations in parallel with looking for new valorisation paths for agricultural waste," and the research will identify ways of enhancing what we do with farm effluents and by-products.

Read more

'Idle cows and cull calves': efficiency to the rescue of dairy's green image

Watch: farmers face 30% plastic recycling cost hike

EU to promote bone meal and sludge as fertiliser