23 June 2009

Ireland's Food & Drink Industry in Decline

About 2000 jobs have been lost in Ireland's food and drink industry since the start of this year and thousands more are currently at risk.

According to a new report, the competitive position of some firms has been "damaged by high business costs and a fall in the value of [the British] Pound Sterling against the Euro".

A key problem for the industry are massive energy costs, which are 20% higher in Ireland than the average paid anywhere across the EU. Industrial electricity prices here have increased 70% since 2001, and 36% across the EU.

More than 40% of Irish food exports go to Britain, but as the Pound Sterling has fallen in value by 30%, this reduces both turnover and profit of Ireland's food products sold to our nearest neighbour.

The report argues for new and special financial supports for Irish companies selling into the UK.

It claims that food and drink production and processing is Ireland's most important indigenous sector with 230,000 incomes directly depending on its future health and stability.

The report also points out that the top three grocery chains control more than 70% of the Irish market. Thus the bargaining power of retailers - especially the big ones - is much higher than that of suppliers.

It calls for the appointment of a 'Supermarket Ombudsman' and a code of practice to protect Irish food suppliers from what it terms as "unfair commercial practices".

Reacting to the report, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Mary Coughlan (photo) said she had asked the national Competition Authority to investigate the real costs of doing business in Ireland.

That really says it all, plain and simple. She hasn't got a clue!

If she had any idea of her own department and the matter it deals with, she would well know what is going on in Ireland's shops and supermarkets.

I am no genius or minister, but I do not need to ask some faceless and unelected quango. Every time I go shopping I know within a few minutes who is making the money in Ireland and what is going on in the food industry.
Anyone can do the same, including Fianna Fáil ministers. But the problem with Mary Coughlan is that she has neither any personal interest in the matter, nor much intellectual capacity to deal with anything of importance.

Erin go broke, Paul Krugman would say (see guest column of April 23rd). But 'the Cow' Mary Coughlan never gives a damn, as long as she gets paid her high ministerial salary and is driven around the country like a fairy queen.

The rest of us are only here to pick up the bill and suffer...

The Emerald Islander

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