Ireland needs a food industry regulator to tackle the ‘profiteering’ of supermarkets, according to the Social Democrats.
It comes after Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called for the Government to go “beyond polite encouragement and cosy chats” with companies to lower prices for customers.
On Newstalk Breakfast, this morning, Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore insisted that “it is not correct to say that it is energy that is pushing prices up" in supermarkets.
“That may have been the case last year, but it is no longer the case,” she said.
“The ECB has recently said that profiteering by companies is the main driver of inflation currently.
“People in this country have faced two years of just relentless increases in necessities like food and energy."
The Retail Forum
Last week, representatives from major supermarkets gathered for a meeting called by Neale Richmond, the Minister of State with responsibility for retail business.
There were no ultimatums issued on price reductions at the meeting.
“In relation to Neale Richmond, he went into that meeting with The Retail Forum all guns blazing, telling everyone he was going to deal with this issue," said Deputy Whitmore.
“In actual fact, he asked them if they were okay with the press release he was putting it out – that doesn't sound to me like he was in control of that situation.”
Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers rejected Deputy Whitmore’s claim that the Government has “done nothing except talking” in terms of energy costs.
“We've got the energy credits that everyone's had in their pockets, €600 in the last year,” she said.
“What she said about the ECB, I acknowledge what the companies are doing … but to say that the war in Ukraine, supply chain issues, and energy prices going up have not contributed is just not factually correct.”
Deputy Whitmore said credits are “not a sustainable way to deal with this issue.”
“We need regulators in the food industry and also in the energy sector,” she said.
“We need transparency in the profits that are being made – we currently don't know how much profits are being made by these retail companies.
“It goes to show why these companies are calling Ireland ‘Treasure Island’ because they can make so much money.”
Senator Chambers said Deputy Whitmore has “not one single idea around how to regulate food price inflation.”
“On regulation, we have the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), but the setting of prices and supermarkets is a commercial matter,” she said.
“Price caps are the only thing available to Government – we're not doing it because we think it will damage small retailers.
“Transparency on profits, that is a commercial matter … if the Social Democrats want to bring forward a bill to try and force international companies to produce that data, then they're welcome to do that.”
Deputy Whitmore said more needs to be done to "force the retail companies to reduce the profits."
"We need to know what those profits are first,” she said.
“Government needs to actually bring that bill in and we are working on measures in relation to this.
“We have the Department of Enterprise, we have Neale Richmond, surely it's within the remit of Government to come up with organisers to actually bring them out.”
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