A number of TDs at the first day of Ploughing 2023 in Ratheniska, Co Laois, said food prices need to increase.
The Irish Farmers Journal was joined for a panel on agriculture and politics by Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill, Social Democrat leader Holly Cairns TD and Independent TD Carol Nolan.
Speaking on suggestions that farmers are suffering due to a cheap food policy, Jackie Cahill TD said that “food prices have to increase in the shops”.
“The consumer spend on food has dropped dramatically over the last generation. The modern consumer will have to expect that if they want top-quality food, that has to be paid for because it costs to produce it.
“Food inflation absolutely has to happen. The price of food on the shelf has to increase,” he highlighted.
Carol Nolan TD noted and welcomed the formation of an agri food regulator.
“I do welcome that we have an ombudsman for food now.
“We have a cheap food policy in place that is serving nobody. I think that the retailers need to be called out and held to account and I would hope that the office of the [food] ombudsman would do that. And [that it] will make an example of those who are disrespecting family farms and their high-quality produce.
“If that office is strong enough and does its business, we will see change and that’s not before its time,” she said.
Regulator with ‘teeth’
However, Holly Cairns TD said that when it comes to the legislation governing the new agri food regulator, farmers wanted it to be given sufficient power.
“What we were hearing very clearly from the sector is that they wanted a regulator with teeth. They wanted laws that could prevent cartel-like practices.
“But, instead we have an ombudsman who ultimately can compile reports, give opinion, but they won’t actually be able to introduce any laws. They have no real teeth.
"So, while it is welcome, it certainly isn’t going to be enough to have the kind of impact and change in the sector that we need,” she added.