Dail Adjournment Debate Feb 18 2010

A Ceann Comharaile I have asked for this adjournment debate in the context of what it is that we have experienced both here in Ireland and indeed internationally in relation to the banking system. I heard today that Barclays bank is to pay €3.1Bn in bonuses on €13Bn profits earned last year. This has become all too familiar with international banks such as Goldman Sachs along with out own lesser in size and international influence, though not in sheer brass neck depending on the state to bail them out when the going gets too tough for those that in some cases see themselves as doing “Gods Work”.

To my mind one can draw an analogy between this experience and that what is happening in our food retail sector. It has been quite obvious for some time that the major players are fast approaching the “Too Big To Fail” rubicon. This is a situation that the Minister cannot allow to continue as is.

If these corporations are allowed to carry on unfettered with practises such as hello money and unviable product prices to the primary producer or farmer; where will we find ourselves in a short number of years?

An indigenous food production and farming industry destroyed. An industry that has the best international traceability, the best international quality squandered under the slogan of “we bring you the cheapest prices”.

Spokespersons for these corporations make much of the fact that food prices are 8.2% cheaper this year than last, but at what cost to their own bottom line. To my mind there is none. They do not publish accounts so we do not know the margins. Whilst the consumer apparently gets cheaper food the corporations Balance Sheet is still intact in that the farmer and producer has been squeezed more and more over the past twelve months. This is a totally unsustainable position and the Minister must meet these corporations head on.

Where will all this end?

What about this scenario. These companies are allowed get bigger and bigger, stronger and stronger. The system of food production we have here in Ireland and Europe becomes totally undermined to the point of unsustainibility and the large international retailers source product elsewhere in the world, places without our level of Agricultural development and good practise. A more intense form of farming because that is the only scale which will then be profitable. A possible compromise in quality and safety for the consumer and where do we find ourselves, right back to where we are today in relation to the Banks. Too Big To Fail. At that stage it will be too late to do anything.

I call on the Minister to take this situation seriously and not allow it continue as it has to date. I call on the Minister to use the canon of legislation at her disposal to deal with the problem now and if that is not sufficient to develop more robust laws. I call on the Minister to start by using the Competition Authority to immediately begin to deal with the issue.