Matt Carthy MEP urges progress on all-Ireland Food labelling demands
The Sinn Féin member on the European Parliament's Agriculture & Rural Development Committee, Matt Carthy, has urged for immediate progress on the issue of developing an "all-Ireland" food label. Following a delegation to the European Parliament in Brussels last November on the subject, the Midlands NorthWest MEP convened a follow-up meeting with interested parties, including representatives of farmer's organisations, north and south, as well as representatives from livestock marts, last week. Disappointingly Minister Coveney's department did not accept an invitation to attend. Minister Michelle O'Neill from the northern executive was represented by a senior advisor.
Speaking this week, Matt Carthy said:
"There is a willingness at various levels to develop an all island food label which would be of immense benefit to farmers and the overall food industry across Ireland. However it appears that Minister Coveney is intent on passing the buck on this issue blaming the Commission and EU regulation as an obstacle when this is clearly not the case.
"The Agriculture Commission has not closed the door to the possibility of an all island label and has stated that they will do everything possible to accommodate a political agreement between the two Ministers in Ireland. My party colleague and Agriculture Minister in the north, Michelle O'Neill has raised this with Minister Simon Coveney, but to no apparent avail as yet.
"The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs in Britain have further confirmed that they understand the anomaly that the border has created and have given their approval for the development of an all island label.
"EU Labelling regulations were introduced to provide consumer confidence and to give consumers choice. What has since transpired is that the choice is being made for consumers by the refusal of retailers to, for example, sell beef from cattle born in one jurisdiction in Ireland but finished in the other.
"Supermarkets and processors are undermining the Single European Market with actions such as demands from UK retailers which are arbitrarily creating large surpluses in Ireland and driving farm gate prices down. They claim that their refusal to take Irish meat is down to their consumers not wanting “mixed origin” labelled meat. The Commission and competition authority must intervene to challenge this. Detailed evidence has been forwarded to all relevant authorities in Europe, yet to date the commission has not given the matter the serious consideration it deserves.
"What farmers and many independent observers see as blatant racketeering is being carried out in the name of consumer demand- if this is the case then an all-island label and moves towards a more consolidated all island structure dealing with animal health and welfare standards could go towards restoring consumer confidence. Such moves could help to achieve a fairer price for our farmers yet the only reluctance seems to be coming from Minister Coveney.
"The political system has not been willing to address or challenge the entities who are acting as obstacles and I will be writing again to both Ministers to ensure this issue, among others raised at the last week's meeting, are addressed. Ireland is too small to have farmers from different regions competing on price."