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.”

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Food chain reform moves closer

Long road to tackle unfair trading practices

Farmer airlifted to hospital following cow attack
The farmer is in hospital following the attack but his condition is not life threatening.

A Cavan man in his 60s was airlifted to hospital following an attack by a cow on a farm in Bailieboro, Co Cavan.

The incident occurred at midday on Tuesday 21 May and the man received “serious injuries”, according to Gardaí.

He is currently in Tallaght University Hospital but his injuries are not believed to be life threatening.

Gardaí and HSA are also investigating the death of a farmer involving a tractor which occurred in Fermoy last week.

Ireland waiting for terms of €50m Brussels beef fund - Varadkar
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday about the Brexit beef fund.

Ireland is waiting to see the terms and conditions of the €50m in funding from Brussels before it decides how the Brexit beef compensation is rolled out to farmers, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday.

Fifty-million euro in exceptional aid is to be provided to beef farmers given the collapse in beef prices in recent months. Ireland “will have to provide matching funding”, Varadkar said. This brings the total fund to €100m.

He added: “We do not yet have the terms and conditions from the Commission, but as soon as we get them we will be able to develop a scheme and ensure that farmers get the money they need as soon as possible.”

However, speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal on Monday this week, EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said that it will be up to the beef industry and the Department of Agriculture in Ireland to decide how the scheme is rolled out.

It will be a matter for Minister Creed to sit down with the beef sector to work out how it’s going to be paid

“We didn’t launch the inter-service consultation within the Commission yet, which we will launch this week,” Commissioner Hogan said on Monday. "Therefore, it will be a matter for Minister Creed to sit down with the beef sector to work out how it’s going to be paid.”

Once the implementing regulation has been adopted by the Commission, it then has to be voted on by the member states in a management committee. It will be following this committee approval that the Department of Agriculture can devise the scheme.

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Call to prioritise farm-scale renewable energy
Low interest rates should help farmers and other citizens to produce green energy on their properties, the industry body MREF has said.

Large-scale Government investment in renewable energy needs to prioritise smaller projects including those on farms, the industry body representing suppliers and installers of equipment has said.

"The Government will have to prioritise and prime the actions needed by homes, businesses and farms with grants and tax incentives in the next budget to incentivise the retrofitting homes, installing renewable technologies and helping businesses and farms adapt new practices and processes to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions,” said Pat Smith, chair of the Micro Renewable Energy Federation (MREF).

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton will announce a national plan to tackle climate change in the coming weeks across all Government departments and agencies. Smith said the country's target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1m tonnes equivalent carbon dioxide every year for the next 30 years could cost €1bn per year.

Low interest loans

“Government must also ensure that there are easily accessible low-interest loans at sub 3% levels to assist homes, businesses and farms address these issues in a planned and economically sustainable way,” Smith said.

He added that access to grid connections for producers of renewable electricity should be reformed. "For example, ESB Networks currently process a maximum of 30 grid applications a year when it is hundreds of connections that will be required."

Smith also called for free grid connections for micro-scale generators, such as rooftop solar panels, and opportunities for farmers and other building owners to export part of the surplus energy into the national grid.

EU directive

Meanwhile, the Council of European Ministers formally adopted the final set of rules forming part of the Clean Energy Package this Wednesday. These include the already-adopted Renewable Energy Directive, which will force all EU member states to allow citizens to sell part of the renewable energy they produce into the grid within two years.

Read more in our focus on renewable energy in this week's Irish Farmers Journal.

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Uncertain renewable energy business 'like beef cattle'

EU approves renewable heat scheme