The Minister for Agriculture has moved to allay concerns raised by Galway TD Noel Grealish over the possible effect on prices paid to farmers in the wake of a deal that will see ABP Food Group increase its share of the market.
Minister Simon Coveney said that the recent deal, which will see the Larry Goodman-chaired ABP take a 50% stake in Slaney Foods, would be subject to the scrutiny of competition law.
Deputy Grealish, an Independent TD for Galway West, had tabled a Parliamentary Question asking the Minister if he envisaged any problem with one company gaining control of the meat industry and controlling the price paid to farmers.
He said the deal “also gives the company greater control of the rendering industry and puts more pressure on the price being paid to farmers, which is very low at the moment.”
In his reply, Minister Coveney said that the State, through the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, had an existing and well established infrastructure for oversight of competition matters and for dealing with allegations of anti-competitive practices or abuse of a dominant position.
“I understand that acquisitions or mergers of organisations with turnover exceeding certain statutory thresholds are required to be notified to that body, which conducts an assessment to determine whether there will be any ‘substantial lessening of competition’.
“The acquisition referred to by the deputy will be subject to the relevant statutory requirements under competition law,” the Minister added.
Farming organisations, including the IFA and the ICSA, have expressed their concern over the move by ABP to take a 50% shareholding in Slaney Foods and its effect on the livelihoods of cattle and sheep farmers.
The IFA’s National Livestock Chairman, Henry Burns, said: “Competition in the beef and lamb trade is always a contentious issue between farmers and factories. Farmers are rightly concerned with the over dominance of a number of major players at both processing and retail level”.