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Call for below-cost selling of milk and bread to be banned

An Oireachtas Committee has also called for a code of conduct in the groceries sector that would be enforced by a supermarket ombudsman.

Image: Bread, milk, sickle via Shutterstock

AN OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE has called for the establishment of a statutory code of conduct in the groceries sector and for the selling of staple products, such as milk and bread, at below-cost to be banned.

The Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine has made a number of recommendations in a report on the grocery goods sector published today. It has examined “increasing equity and transparency” between food producers, processors and retailers.

The code of conduct should be established without delay, the report said while also calling for the establishment of an independent ‘supermarket ombudsman’ that would represent the consumer and producer and oversee the application of the code of conduct.

Committee chairman, Andrew Doyle, said today: “The Committee believes that a clear, simplified and robust code can safeguard the family farm structure and primary producers, while contributing to a more transparent retail sector.”

The report also calls for greater transparency from large retailers saying there should be legislation introduced to force them to publish their profits and turnovers.

The Committee has also backed the government proposal to introduce minimum pricing of alcohol and has recommended that the use of staples, such as milk and bread, as so-called loss leaders to be banned.

The report said: “The Committee considers that in many respects primary producers are not getting fair treatment in the food supply chain, nor a fair price for their goods.”

While the Irish Farmers’ Association has called for the immediate implementation of the report’s recommendations by the government, the response from retailers has not been as warm.

Retail Ireland Director Stephen Lynam said today that a statutory code of conduct will make it more difficult for retailers to negotiate the best price for consumers.

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He added: “The report also calls for price controls on staple goods, which would also push up prices. These measures would not benefit farmers, as retailers usually buy from suppliers, wholesalers and manufacturers. Those are the groups who stand to benefit.

Doyle, a Fine Gael TD, said on RTÉ Radio 1 this afternoon that the main thrust of the report is about “improving the relationship along the chain”.

He rejected claims that the recommendations, if implemented, would result in higher prices as none of the retail groups who appeared before the committee were able to say how exactly this would happen.

Read: Government deal to implement minimum alcohol pricing welcomed

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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