Thursday, 16 May 1974
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. G. Collins, Mr. J. Gibbons, Mr. Leonard, Mr. O'Connor, Mr. Geoghegan, Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Noonan and Mr. Crinion: asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he will reintroduce price control on feedingstuffs.
Mr. Leonard: asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he is aware of the discrepancies in prices charged by different compounders for animal feeds; and if he proposes to take any action to remedy this unsatisfactory situation.
I decided on 20th December, 1973, to exclude the animal feeding stuffs industry from formal price control on the recommendation of the National Prices Commission and following consultations with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the various farmers' representative organisations which generally welcomed the move. A system of monitoring price changes and profit margins in the industry is now in operation. I have also asked the Examiner of Restrictive Practices to keep the industry under review to help ensure that no practices aimed at restraining competition are allowed to develop. These arrangements will be reviewed by the National Prices Commission at the end of this year.
I understand however that the commission expect to be in a position shortly to provide a preliminary report on the operation of the arrangements during the first quarter of this year which should give some indication of their effectiveness. While it would be premature to make any judgement on their effectiveness, there is information already that substantial price reductions are taking place; for example, one firm has notified my Department of a reduction of £10 a tonne in the price of pig rations. I am not therefore at present considering the re-introduction of formal price control.
 The existence of variations between the prices charged by different compounders for comparable types of feedstuffs constitutes evidence of competition and I am concerned that there should be active competition between compounders. Under the monitoring arrangements the compounders' prices are kept under the closest scrutiny to ensure that excessive prices are not charged.
Mr. Tunney: Would the Minister accept in respect of the reduction which has occurred in the price of pig feedingstuffs that it may be at least in part due to the fact that the number of pigs is reducing very much, and suppliers are anxious to get rid of the feedingstuffs now to anyone who is in a position to buy them?
Mr. Keating: There is no doubt that the overwhelmingly important reason for the reduction in the price of animal feedingstuffs is that the inputs, the raw materials which the compounders have to buy, have come down in price. It is impossible to quantify other effects. If there is such an effect it is precisely a validation of the decision to remove price control and let competition bring down the price. If we still had price control the fixed price would be the price. That is what always happens in a price control situation. Our decision to remove price control in December has been validated by the reduction in prices.
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