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Cattle farmers will not pay CPC fine

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By Evie Andreou

CATTLE farmers said yesterday a €2.1m fine imposed on them is unfair and they will refuse to pay, their association POA said yesterday.

POA head Savvas Evangelou said: “We will appeal to the Supreme court because we believe that this fine should have not been imposed.”

The fines were imposed for by watchdog Committee for the Protection of Competition (CPC) for price-fixing and other irregularities and have to be paid within six months.

Evangelou said the previous CPC committee had found no irregularities and that their investigations had included the whole supply chain, from the farmers to middlemen to retail.

He added that for a clearer picture CPC should also investigate the Grains Commission since it has the ability to store huge volumes of grain and is able to control feed prices.

“We will not pay the fine. Even if we wanted to we don’t have the money” Evangelou said.

He said cattle farmers were facing economic difficulties and that some find it hard to even buy feed for their animals.

But the CPC has said that after reviewing and evaluating all available evidence, it had found the farmers in breach of three articles of competition law.

The probe focused on the nature and terms of POA’s cooperation with its members, and the association’s actions and practices in selling milk from January 1, 2009 to May 28, 2012.

In its decision, CPC noted that the fresh cows’ milk market was restricted by quotas, meaning that market entry was incumbent on being allocated a production quota by the authorities and as such, the market is inherently restricted, and any actions or practices contrary to the principles of free competition could be particularly harmful to competition and the subsequent stages in the chain of production that use cows’ milk as a raw material such as the dairy industry.

The CPC also called unsubstantiated POA’s claim that paying the fine would jeopardise the viability of cattle farmers since the association’s bank deposits had suffered a haircut in 2013 haircut.

Farmers’ association EVROAGROTIKOS, said the CPC’s recent investigation was restricted only to the producers and that was lacking evidence since in order to define the producers’ costs they should have investigated the prices of grain and cattle feed.

The association announced that they expect the CPC to show the same sensitivity in other sectors like fuel, bread and bottled water.

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