Reduce Control of Agri-Business
Big business dominates the agri sector. In meat processing for example, three companies – ABP, Dawn Meats and Kepak – dominate the industry. The big processors also use the Quality Assurance programme to stifle competition. This means ordinary farmers get roughly 15-20% less than their counterparts in Britain.
PBP wants to re-balance the sector in favour of small and medium sized ventures. To do this, we would impose a special levy on the profits of the major processors, the major supermarkets and the biggest farmers. This would bring in €1.3 billion annually. In order to gather this levy, the processors will have to make their full financial accounts publically available – even if they have become unlimited firms.
Supermarket’s should also be legally obliged to declare profits made in Ireland and produce full Irish accounts. This, however, can only be regarded as a first move. The big processors are motivated entirely by the search for profit rather than the nutritional value of food. They will need to be taken into public ownership so that 1) fair prices can be guaranteed for primary producers and 2) there can be an orderly re-orientation away from a focus on beef production.
Alternative Models of Agriculture
Employment in the farming sector is declining by around 8,000 per year. Between 1991 and 2015, the number of farms fell from 170,000 to 140,000. The age of the average farmer is 57 and only 7% of farmers are under the age of 35. The current model of agriculture is gradually eradicating small and medium sized ventures. To combat this, People Before Profit advocate,
- Promote the establishment of small local processors. A significant proportion of Irish agricultural products are processed by the major food groups or exported directly out of the country. PBP would look at the viability of small local processors to service co-operatives in Ireland.
- Co-operative farming – One way to make rural life more sustainable is to promote co-operative farms. These would be owned by the farmers who run them with credit provided by the state. This would help to generate efficiencies of scale, promote employment and enhance rural life more generally. Currently an individual can claim €2,500 for a start-up enterprise. This should be increased to make cooperative ventures viable.