Pity the grain-growers in the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA). After preventing the delivery of a consignment of British wheat into the Irish market, the IFA head office in Dublin was raided on Monday by the Competition Authority. Claiming there were no grounds for an investigation, the IFA accused the the authority of being "high-handed".
Really? The authority wants to investigate whether there was any breach of the Competition Acts. It is aware that the consignment never reached the Irish market because 400 farmers mounted a blockade at Drogheda port on August 31st. After that, the importer agreed to put the grain into storage and keep it off the market indefinitely. The IFA claimed it wanted to highlight the drop in grain prices its members have been receiving. But the apparent effect of its action was to restrict competition in the market. No matter how that might suit the farmers by keeping prices up, it is bad news indeed for industrial and domestic customers. In addition, it smacks of a restriction to entry in the market. Have the farmers forgotten that there is free movement of goods and services in the EU and that many depend for their livelihoods on subsidies from the same EU? Surely not. With a good many farmers in the export business themselves, such actions seem especially negative. Whether the Competition Authority moves on a separate protest at Kinsale on Wednesday remains to be seen. Irish Times
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