Supermarkets should be treated like energy companies and subject to a windfall tax if they are found to be profiteering, according to Labour’s finance spokesperson.
Ged Nash said the Government is “flailing” in its efforts to force supermarkets to cut prices.
His comments come after supermarket chains reduced prices on their own brand bread and dairy products.
Leaders from all the main supermarkets were also invited to the Retail Forum over concerns to high food prices.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Nash said there are people in Ireland going hungry, adding it is “completely unconscionable”.
“There are 677,000 people in this country, in this very rich country, that are actually living below the poverty line,” he said, adding that transparency is key.
Mr Nash said a food price regulator will be in place soon and although imperfect, this will help the situation farmers are currently experiencing.
However, he added, the missing piece is what consumers are being charged and supermarket profits.
Supermarkets must be compelled to publish their profits, he said, adding that people cannot take the supermarkets word that they are not engaging in profiteering.
There is a political consensus that competition should bring prices down, but when this does not happen, someone needs to speak for the consumer, he said.
He also questioned how Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney is going to name and shame supermarkets suspected of profiteering.
Mr Nash described the decision to cut the price of own brand bread as a “PR exercise, merely spin to take the heat off of them and to throw a small bone to the minister and the Government”.
New regulator must be given enough powers – IFA
The President of the Irish Farmers’ Assocation has said it is very important the that the new agri-food regulator is given enough powers and can bring “clarity” to the supply chain process.
The bill that will establish the regulator to monitor and police interactions between farmers and food producers, retailers and processors was debated in the Dáil yesterday evening.
Titled the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain Bill 2022, it provides for the establishment of a new independent statutory body, An Rialálaí Agraibhia, or agri-food regulator, which will have powers to levy fines of up to €10m on buyers, including retailers, food producers and processors who engage in unfair trading practices with farmers and other suppliers.
The office will have powers to investigate breaches such as late payments to suppliers, misuse of trade secrets, commercial retaliation and unilateral contract changes.
The regulator will also have the power to carry out analysis and reporting of price and market data concerning the agricultural and food chain in Ireland to help enhance market fairness and transparency.
It is intended to strengthen the position of farmers, fishers and other suppliers in the agricultural and food supply chain against larger buyers with greater bargaining power.
Tim Cullinan said that he hopes it will bring balance to the debate “finally”, so the association knows what the retailer is “paying the processors”.
“We know what the consumer is paying, we know what the farmer is receiving, but the piece in the middle, it is all clouded,” Mr Cullinan said.
“We don’t know and until we are able to bring clarity to that area, that is why we need this bill.”
Speaking on the same programme, he said it is a huge improvement “from where we are coming from” but highlighted some concerns around whether the bill will “go far enough”.
He said that while food inflation is currently running at 16%, over the last 20 years, except for last year, the price of food fell.
Mr Cullinan added that the association is trying to keep farmers in business and warned that if “we are not very, very careful we will be importing all fresh vegetables” into Ireland within the next five or six years.
He also addressed the recent drop in some food prices across supermarkets and that in the past it “goes back to the primary producer”.
“My concern here is the extraordinary cost increase that the farmer has to deal with on the input side last year. In excess of 40% increase in the cost of production,” Mr Cullinan added.
He said that is based on a rise in energy bills and other costs
He warned they are losing 800 farmers across Europe every day as he described the threat to the sector overall.