Morning shoppers and staff at Portlaoise’s supermarkets were surprised by a flash mob of farmers last Wednesday, organised by the Irish Farmers Association.
More than 250 farmers from all over Ireland descended on Dunne’s, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Superquinn, marching both inside and outside with big placards, while the national press rushed after them around the town.
Ballacolla farmer Jer Bergin, Vice President of the IFA, was one of the leaders of the march and explained what it was about to the Leinster Express.
“We have seen a massive increase in costs this year, across all sectors, pig, poultry, beef, fruit and veg, Potatoes and liquid milk. Our feed costs have gone up by over 40 per cent since the start of the year. Energy costs have increased by 30 per cent. The effect of bad weather is another cost. We are looking for a fairer share of the retail cost. We believe supermarkets have enough of a margin not to increase the cost to the customer,” he said.
Farming beef, sheep and tillage in Ballacolla, Jer says many farmers are now in a loss making situation.
“This is because of the failure of retailers to reflect our increasing costs,” he said.
There was a second reason for their protest he said.
“For the last 18 months, farmers have been waiting for promised retailing legislation from the government to protect the primary producers. It was promised last Autumn, and this year again,” he said.
The protest is a taste of more to come, with a nationwide ‘Day of Action’ planned on Tuesday, October 9 in Dublin, to fight for the full retention of CAP funding and farm schemes.
“No produce will leave any farm on that day,” promised a Kerry farmer taking part in the march.
He believed supermarkets were taking too much profit, at the expense of customers as well as suppliers.
“The only sector of the Irish economy making the same margin as it was in the boom is supermarkets. Tesco even admitted making far more profit in Ireland than the UK,” he said.
President of the IFA John Bryan said at the march that farmers’ backs are to the wall.
“Both retailers and processors will have to get used to paying producers high farm gate prices. This does not necessarily mean increases in consumer prices, as there has to be a better and fairer distribution of the final price. National and EU legislation is long overdue to restore equity in the food supply chain,” he said.
He says support for their Day of Action on October 9 has been positive since it was announced a fortnight ago.
“There is huge solidarity to fight for the future of CAP funding and the retention of farm schemes, both of which play a vital role in supporting farm production and incomes”.
Mr Bryan said previous cuts have been “totally disproportionate”.
“They are now hitting the lowest income sector of agriculture hard. Farmers are sending a message to Minister Coveney that he cannot cut the schemes any further.
“Farm families are already finding it extremely difficult to cope with the extra costs and taxes imposed on them.
“The consequences of the disastrous summer and the escalating input costs has put massive pressure on farm incomes,” he said.