The West Cork based ICSA suckler chairman Dermot Kelleher has taken issue with Dairygold regarding the Government fodder subsidy, which is apparently being re-distributed to farmers by means of a credit note for use in Dairygold outlets.
According to Mr Kelleher, no co-op has the right to attach any restrictions or conditions to this money. “Where a farmer paid the full price for bales of hay, he is now entitled to get a refund from the co-op in line with the value of the Government subsidy, assuming that he doesn’t owe the co-op money. It is not acceptable that any refund be allocated in the form of a credit note rather than paying the farmer directly. This seems to be anti-competitive because it forces the farmer to buy product from Dairygold in order to realise the value of the refund.”
The fodder subsidy was introduced by the Government last spring to alleviate the expense of imported fodder. It was designed to offset the transport costs of imported hay from the UK and elsewhere, which was distributed via co-ops and marts. The Department of Agriculture decided that it was more efficient to pay the money to the co-ops and marts rather than individual farmers who ultimately paid for the fodder.
However, the refund was not available at the time and the shortfall was covered either by the farmer paying in full for the bale or the co-op/mart covered the difference. Now that the money is arriving from the Department, that money is either owed to the farmer or the co-op/mart.
Mr Kelleher is insisting that where money is rightfully owed to farmers, it should be paid directly to them.
Mr Kelleher has also raised concerns that the refunds are coming very slowly. “The Department is taking too long to refund the money. We understand that the payment so far only amounts to 75% of the total due and we are calling on the Minister to expedite this payment as soon as possible.”