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Ferris highlights inflationary pressures on farm incomes

6 July, 2004

Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD, questioned Minister Joe Walsh on the crisis in farm incomes caused by inflationary pressures and the massive disparity between falling prices paid to farmers for their produce, and the price charged by the retail sector to consumers. Farmers are also losing out by having to pay grossly inflated prices for inputs such as fuel and energy.

Deputy Ferris said: "While the annual rate of inflation between 1995 and 2003 was 4.1%, motor fuels rose on average by over 7% and are now 50% higher than in 1995. Overall, energy costs have risen by over 43%.

"This has been a major contributory factor in the decline of farm incomes - in real terms - by almost 25% over the same period. Farmers also currently owe something in the region of €1.1 billion in debt which is equivalent to over 40% of total farm income.

"In contrast to the increases in input costs, in many cases well about the average inflation rate, the prices being earned by farmers for their products have mostly fallen. And yet the retail sector charges higher prices so that both the farmer and the consumer are losing out.

"To provide just one example, the average farmgate price per tonne for apples fell by over €100 between 1996 and last year. This means that of the price paid by supermarket customers at the present time, less than 20% goes to the people who grow the apples.

"Would the Minister agree that farmers are therefore paying the price for the fact that large multiple retailers can dictate prices to the disadvantage of farmers but at the same time charge higher prices to the consumer. And would he agree that this is something that his Department and perhaps the Competition authority should investigate." ENDS

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