His comments came after reports that Cavan-based poultry farmer, Alo Mohan, who had declined to take part in VAT avoidance arrangements, was forced out of business after processors refused to deal with him.
“Are we talking about an abuse of power here?” Senator Mullen asked in the Seanad. “If the man in question and his farm family in Co. Cavan have done nothing wrong, why do they not have an outlet for their produce? Are they being blackballed by their previous processor, who I believe are Carton Brothers and Manor Farm in Shercock, County Cavan? And where are the other poultry processors?”
Senator Mullen called on the Minister “to take steps to protect the livelihood of a decent, honest farmer and prevent or punish any possible abuse of power that may be ongoing or may have occurred in the past by big corporate poultry processors. Are the big corporate interests bullying the common man in Co. Cavan in the same way as they seem to be doing elsewhere in the world?” Senator Mullen asked.
Mr. Mohan is a respected farmer in Cavan, a former Chair of the Irish Farmers Association Poultry Committee and an FBD Nuffield scholar who completed the study, “Thinking Different – Encouraging the Transfer of Knowledge in the Poultry Sector”. Mr Mohan is also a member of the Poultry Council and Chair and founder of “Taste of Cavan Food Festival”.
Mr. Mohan has a wife and three sons in Redhills, County Cavan. They produced over one million chickens a year from their family farm, along being a beef and sheep farmer.
“I am troubled by media reports that Mr. Mohan ... contends that he lost out on an additional €25,000 income per year because he did not participate in various VAT arrangements,” Senator Mullen told the Seanad. “The media report goes on to state that Mr Mohan ceased trading with his processor late last year and have since failed to find a new purchaser for his chickens. This farmer is no longer able to earn a livelihood from what is a very well kept and high quality family farm.”
Speaking after his comments in the Seanad, Senator Mullen also claimed that the case raised animal welfare concerns. “I understand that the Carton Bros Plant in Shercock is now sourcing their poultry from Cappoquin in Co Waterford area. I fail to understand why a 300 km journey should be inflicted on chickens while a local grower, in business for 60 years, and at a distance of some 35 km from the plant cannot find an outlet for his chickens,” stated Senator Mullen.
Processors are entitled to source produce from whomever they like, but if there is any question of a supplier getting penalised because he took the route of good citizenship, then an important public interest issue arises, Senator Mullen said.
“We have heard from the Minister for Finance, but now we need to hear from Mr. Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.”
Senator Mullen’s comments came after the outcome of a complaint lodged by Ms. Marian Harkin, MEP, to the European Commission, on behalf of Mr Mohan, about possible VAT avoidance schemes in the Irish poultry sector.
“If it is true, it is certainly embarrassing to have our dirty linen laundered at European level, but we should be grateful that it is being laundered at all,” Senator Mullen said.