MEP for Offaly and Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness and Ulster Unionist MEP, Jim Nicholson recently met with the European Commissioner for Competition, Margethe Vestager in the European Parliament in Strasbourg to discuss competition or a lack of it in the beef sector both North and South of the border.
By Damian Moran
MEP McGuinness stated that "the merger of ABP Food Group with Slaney Foods has consequences in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland" and she added that "farmers need a guarantee that this merger will not cause further distortions in an already highly concentrated market".
The Competition Commissioner reassured the MEPs that the issue will be dealt with by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority and Ireland's Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and if necessary, will be referred to the EU Commission to ensure that the proposed merger will not further distort the beef market.
Jim Nicholson MEP highlighted that the merger may uncover deeper competition issues in this market and will significantly highlight price gaps for beef in Northern Ireland compared to mainland UK.
The MEPs who are members on the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, also raised the general issue of competition in the food sector arising from the imbalance of power between producers, processors and retailers.
Last year the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee unanimously voted in favour of adopting legislation to stamp out unfair trading practices in the food supply chain. The committee is awaiting the publication of a study from Commissioner Bienkowska that will assess voluntary initiatives such as the Supply Chain Initiative (SCI) and national best practices in tackling unfair trading practices.