Tag Archives: vegetable price war

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wed/Thrs. 26th & 27th March 2014

Moneypoint Co Clare power station could meet Ireland’s 25% of renewable energy goal

   Moneypoint power station

Malcolm Brown of BW Energy (left) and Paddy Massey of ReThink Pylons (above left) at a press conference in Dublin today outlining their plans for a pylon-free alternative to Grid25.

Converting Clare plant from coal to biomass would help deliver 40% of target, 

Ireland’s target of having 40% of energy needs met by renewable sources by 2020 could be met in a single stroke if the Moneypoint power station in Co Clare was converted from coal to biomass, according to a UK-based energy analyst working for ReThink Pylons, one of the groups opposing EirGrid’s Grid25 pylons project.

Malcolm Brown of BW Energy today said converting Moneypoint’s three coal-fired boilers, one at a time over an extended period, would cost €380 million. Electricity generated from burning biomass (mainly wood pellets) at Moneypoint would add 25% to the existing 19.6% of renewable energy already produced in the State.

The two together would exceed the 40% target Mr. Brown said.

Converting Moneypoint would also cut out the need for the €3.8 billion cost of increasing Ireland’s windpower capacity necessary under government plans to meet the 40% target, he argued.

In a report prepared for Re Think Pylons, he also argued that converting Moneypoint station would remove the €2.3 billion cost of the Grid25 pylon project and the €600 million cost of the interconnector with the UK to stabilise the power network due to its planned reliance on wind.

Grid25 is a project by Eirgrid, the company that runs the electricity transmission network as opposed to the power stations that generate the current, to upgrade transmission lines in the northwest, the south and southeast, and between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Interconnector capacity between Ireland and the UK is also to be upgraded.

The plans have garnered significant opposition from local groups, however, and in January, amid fears the issue would impact on the June local and European elections, the Government asked former Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness to examine whether underground cabling was a feasible alternative to pylons.

Opponents argue that the pylons, in most instances 60 metres tall, would damage the landscape and reduce the value of their property. Some opponents also cite health fears for people living close to high voltage electricity transmission.

Speaking today at the launch of his report in Dublin, Mr Brown based much of his argument on an analysis of the operation of the Drax power station at Drax in North Yorkshire in England. It is the largest power plant in western Europe and provides some 7% of the UK’s energy needs but is also the single largest emitter of CO2.

Starting in 2004, Drax began a gradual conversion to biomass, burning locally sourced willow in parallel with coal. In 2012, the process of changing three of the plant’s six units to biomass began – the first of which was fired last June. A second unit is due to go fully biomass this year, and the third by 2017.

Mr Brown argued that recent advances in technology had made biomass electricity production both feasible and cost-effective. Security of biomass fuel supply, generally wood pellets, was guaranteed from US timber sources willing to enter nine-year fixed term contracts.

Most Irish consumers against Supermarkets vegetable price wars


Support for legislation to protect food producers from sharp practice by supermarkets

When asked by the Ipsos/MRBI survey if the below-cost selling of vegetables before Christmas was good for consumers in the long term, some 64% said it was not. Some 66% of those surveyed said retail multiples did not treat farm families fairly when buying their produce.

Just three in 10 people believe the sale of cheap vegetables has long-term benefits for consumers, new research by Agri Aware, the agri-food educational body, has found.

When asked by the Ipsos/MRBI survey if the below-cost selling of vegetables before Christmas was good for consumers in the long term, some 64% said it was not. Some 66% of those surveyed said retail multiples did not treat farm families fairly when buying their produce.

In December, Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes Stores were carrots and onions for as little as 5 cent a kilo. They insisted they were covering the cost of the promotion, but the Irish Farmers’ Association claimed farmers would pay for it and it staged protests.

However, National Consumer Agency chief executive Karen O’Leary described the price war as positive.

The Agri Aware survey of more than 1,000 people also found almost 88% of people think legislation should be introduced to ensure food producers get a fair price from supermarkets. A Bill expected to address this issue has been promised by the Government.

Agri Aware chairman Bernard Donohue said it was clear the public was very much behind the introduction of new legislation to ensure that retailers pay a fair price to farmers for quality produce.

“Following the vegetable price war at Christmas, the National Consumer Agency described this as positive, yet this Agri Aware survey clearly demonstrates that the Irish public expect retailers to treat farm families fairly,” he said.

The Agri Aware study also asked if quality or price was the most important consideration when buying groceries. Some 79 per cent cited quality. There was a difference between the importance of quality for those working and those unemployed. Some 83% of those working cited quality first compared with 63% of the unemployed.

Irish Dairy Board secures €420m syndicated loan to fund global expansion


The Irish Dairy Board (IDB), which owns Kerrygold along with brands such as Dubliner cheese, has secured a five-year syndicated loan of €420m to fund dairy businesses expanding overseas as milk quotas end in 2015.

The new loan replaces an existing three-year €350m facility, the IDB said yesterday. It includes a €165m syndicated loan facility to fund IDB’s own working capital requirements and its growth strategy.

The remaining €255m will be used for syndicated reverse invoice discounting for members.

The money comes from Allied IrishBank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch,Barclays, HSBC, Rabobank and Ulster Bank.

Reverse invoice discounting was first introduced in 2012 and allows members to discount their sales invoices to IDB, receiving funds up front, with IDB providing security of payment to the banks.

It was set up to help companies and individuals as they look for new markets in the wake of theEuropean Commission’s decision to liberalise the milk industry.

“The successful refinancing demonstrates the strong support that exists amongst our participating banks for both the IDB and the Irish dairy industry generally,” said group finance director Donal Buggy.

“This strong support was clearly voiced in recent meetings with all of our banks and is evidenced by our new facilities being significantly over-subscribed,” he added.

The Irish Dairy Board markets and sells dairy products on behalf of the country’s dairy processors and farmers.

The board has sales of around €2bn and employs about 3,100 people globally. It is responsible for exporting about 60pc of Ireland’s dairy products to more than 100 countries. It does this by sharing the story of Irish farming and explaining how Irish dairy products are produced.

By building markets for dairy products, it aims to increase the value of Irish milk and to deliver strong returns for farmers.

With pre-packing and blending facilities located in Germany, the UK, the US and the Middle East the board also develops specialist food ingredients for many of the world’s major food manufacturers.

Former Anglo director said he was ‘not instrumental’ in Sean Quinn deal


William McAteer denies helping to orchestrate plan to unwind Quinn’s holding in bank

William McAteer, the former director of finance at Anglo Irish Bank, told gardaí he “was not instrumental” in a deal to unwind businessman Sean Quinn’s holding in Anglo Irish Bank in July 2008, the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard this morning.

In a Garda interview in November 2011, Mr McAteer denied he was an integral part of the plan to dispose of Mr Quinn’s holdings, that he helped to orchestrate the plan, and that he was aware at all times of the details of the plan.

His interviews with gardaí at Irishtown Garda Station in 2010 and 2011 were read into the record by Paul O’Higgins SC, for the prosecution, and confirmed by Detective Sergeant Glenn MacKessy and Detective Sergeant Michael Prendergast.

Mr McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin; Seán FitzPatrick (65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow and Pat Whelan (51) of Malahide, Dublin, have been charged with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank, contrary to section 60 of the Companies Act.

Mr Whelan has also been charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals.

All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The court had heard, by July 2008, Mr Quinn’s contracts for difference – investment products based on share value – involved more than 28 per cent of the bank’s shares.

As part of a deal to unwind them, the Maple 10 businessmen borrowed €45 million each from Anglo to buy 1 per cent of the bank’s shares and the Quinn children borrowed €170 million to buy almost 15 per cent of the shares.

The unwinding deal was carried out in the week of July 14th, 2008.

In his interview with gardaí, Mr McAteer said he had no involvement in the lending to buy the shares. When asked by gardaí Mr McAteer had said he did not recall a series of emails from around the time the deal closed.

Mr McAteer agreed he did play a part in trying to find institutional buyers for the Quinn CFDs. He also said he was broadly aware of the unwind deal but there were meetings and telephone calls he was not a party to.

Asked by gardaí if he had instructed others in Anglo to implement the unwind deal, he said he was sure he “instructed people to make sure it was properly executed”.

When asked by gardaí if he had anything to add, Mr McAteer said the Quinn CFD position was “unacceptable” and the financial regulator had been “very anxious” to get the holding unwound.

Also giving evidence this morning, house builder Seamus Ross, one of the Maple 10, said he had been a client of Anglo for more than 15 years and had a “very strong relationship” with the bank.

He was surprised when he was asked to meet Mr Whelan and former chief executive of the bank David Drumm on July 10th or 11th 2008.

He said he was asked if he would buy shares in the bank and was told about the Quinn CFD holding and that the financial regulator had approved a deal to unwind it.

He told the court he didn’t ask “that many questions” and was a bit surprised by the discussion. He thought what he was told was “bad news” and “he didn’t like to hear there was a problem”.

He also said he was surprised the terms involved a loan in his “own personal name” and it was to be a “private venture”.

Asked by Mr O’Higgins if he understood the recourse – what would have to be paid back if there was an outstanding balance – he said he believed the recourse was only to the value of the shares and there was no personal recourse.

The meeting didn’t take long, he said and he agreed to “go ahead and give the helping hand to the bank”.

“I was delighted to do that,” he said. The bank had helped him in the past.

Mr Ross said the documents had already been prepared.

“I signed whatever documents was put down and I left,” he said. He did not vet the documents, he said.

He also told the court that at the time he was fighting a court action which lasted three and a half years related to the presence of pyrite in people’s homes. He said he had “hundreds of people knocking on my door, their houses falling down”.

“This was in the middle of all this, so all I can do from memory is to help you the best I can,” he said.

Three-quarters of Ireland’s SMEs not giving pay rises in 2014


Up to 75% of small and medium businesses say they will not be handing out pay rises this year, according to a survey by office supply company Office Depot.

That is despite confidence in the sector continuing to grow.

The business survey also found that 51% of companies reported that positive media stories on the industry does not reflect the tough reality for most of the companies.

Stephen Ireland’s (dead?) grandmother asks Roy Keane to put him into the Republic of Ireland squad


Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane has been urged to recall Stephen Ireland – by the Stoke City midfielder’s grandmother he once falsely claimed was dead.

Ireland has not played international football since 2007, when he pulled out of the squad ahead of a match, saying that his grandmother had passed away.

When it was revealed that his story was false, Ireland said it was his grandfather’s second wife who had passed away, but once more this was proven to be fake.

Eventually he admitted that he left the Ireland squad to visit his girlfriend, who had reportedly had a miscarriage.

Keane revealed in the Irish Independent that by a quirk of fate he recently shared a flight with Ireland’s “dead” grandmother, who asked him whether he pick her grandson again.

“Well, I spoke with the grandmother this morning, she was on the flight coming over – and she asked me would he get back involved,” Keane told the paper.

“I couldn’t lie to her. I said he’d have a chance if he’s playing well. I think [manager] Martin  [O’Neill] had a conversation with him, and all that needs to fall into place.

“We all know how talented Stephen is and Martin will look at that.

“We wouldn’t be shutting the door on any player.

“What is important for any player, and Stephen is the same, is it does help to be playing week-in week-out.

“He’s obviously had a difficult spell. He’s only just got a run of games at Stoke now. So I certainly wouldn’t be ruling anyone out.”

Ireland spoke of his “regret” at the lie at the time, and suggested last year that he would be willing to return to international football.

Clever Crows smart like children with causal reasoning


New Caledonian crows were tested with tasks based on Aesop’s Fables

A new study of the intelligence of New Caledonian crows suggests that the birds have reasoning powers roughly equal to those of a five to seven-year-old child.

The research, which was published in the journal Plos One, subjected six wild crows to a range of tests including a “water displacement” tasks based on one of Aesop’s fables, ‘The Crow and the Pitcher’.

In the test (and the fable) the thirsty crow has to drink out of narrow container filled with water. The bird cannot reach the liquid but works out that it can raise the water level by dropping stones into the pitcher.

When the crows were faced with this task they not only completed it, but did so in the most efficient way possible, choosing containers with higher water levels and choosing objects that were solid, rather than hollow, to raise the water level.

The tasks asked for crows to raise water levels to reach food.

However, it wasn’t all easy for the crows, and birds were stumped by more difficult tasks involving a U-shaped container with hidden connections. In this the birds were supposed to drop stones into one of the pipes to raise the water level in the other but “showed no signs of learning which tube would bring the reward.”

“These results are striking as they highlight both the strengths and limits of the crows’ understanding,” said Sarah Jelbert from University of Auckland, who led the study.

“In particular, the crows all failed a task which violated normal causal rules, but they could pass the other tasks, which suggests they were using some level of causal understanding when they were successful.”

The study concluded that the birds’ understanding of causal and effect was roughly equal to that of a five to seven-year old child. Caledonian crows, a species well known for their intelligence, have been observed making and using tools in the wild as well as placing nuts on busy roads so that they will be cracked by passing cars.

Any doubts about crows’ intelligence? Watch the video below of a crow solving a eight-stage puzzle from a recent BBC documentary.

Giant shrimp sheds new light on our evolution


Ancient shrimp-like creature (like artists impression above right) that lived 500 million years ago was not a SAVAGE predator?

A savage predator or a gentle vegetarian? For years an ancient shrimp-like creature that lived 500 million years ago had a fearsome reputation as an apex predator. New research from the University of Bristol suggests, however, that the creature was far more placid, avoiding meat and living on plankton.

The free-swimming creature Tamisiocaris borealis lived during the Cambrian period between 485 and 540 million years ago. This was a particularly important time for life on Earth, with an explosion of radically new animal designs evolving.

The dangerous-looking met re-long T borealis swam about eating all before it, according to original assumptions made about it. These were largely based on fossil remains showing grasping-like appendages near its mouth that are common in other animals in its group, the Anomalocarids.

Dr Jakob Vinther and colleagues from Bristol dug up a number of fossils from early Cambrian sediments in northern Greenland and they proposed an alterative view of what the creature had for dinner, in their research report published this evening in the journal Nature .

They suggest the appendages on T borealis were used as combs to collect plankton by sweeping it up off the seabed or filtering it out of the water. The appendages had a series of closely placed spines with longer ones and shorter ones and the scientists argue that at least with T borealis , they were used to collect vegetarian fare in the same way as anyfilter feeder.

The proposal is of interest to palaeontologists studying the emergence of animals during the Cambrian. If this large animal could survive on plankton, there must have been plenty of it about in the seas at the time, something that tells us more about the local food web, the authors say.

It also tells scientists that filter feeding was present at least as far back as the Cambrian era.


News Ireland daily BLOG Wednesday

Wednesday 18th December 2013

Three former bankers charged with €7.2bn fraud

  Peter Fitzpatrick was finance director at Irish Life and Permanent

Case relates to deposits between Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Life & Permanent in 2008

Three former senior bank officials have appeared in court charged in connection with an alleged €7.2 billion fraud.

Former chief executive of Irish Life & Permanent (IL&P)Denis Casey and the bank’s former finance director Peter Fitzpatrick appeared today in the Dublin District Court along with the former head of treasury at Anglo Irish BankJohn Bowe.

The three men were charged with conspiracy to defraud the public under common law.

The charges relate to €7.2 billion in deposits between Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Life & Permanent and Irish Life Assurance in 2008.

In addition, a separate charge was brought against Mr Bowe for false accounting in relation to these deposits in Anglo Irish bank under section 10 of the Theft and Fraud Act.

The three were arrested this morning between 9.25am and 9.45am before being charged at Bridewell Garda station.

After hearing evidence from Detective Inspector Gerry Walsh of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, Judge Patricia McMahon remanded the three men on bail until March 12th next when a book of evidence will be required to be produced by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In each case, the bail conditions included a €1,000 cash bond and a €10,000 independent surety.

Each of the men will also be required to sign on at a Garda station once a week for the period of their bail.

They have also been required to give the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation 48 hours notice of their intention to travel outside the jurisdiction.

In the case of Mr Fitzpatrick, an exception was granted for him to travel to Northern Ireland for family purposes.

Addicts don’t work ‘18 hours’ to fund charity says Victory Outreach


Victory Outreach defends itself after Prime Time report on fundraising method

An evangelical charity which provides residential places for drug addicts has defended its use of cold turkey to treat addicts as well as sending them out to fundraise for it.

RTÉ’s Prime Time last night reported that addicts attempting recovery at Victory Outreach were working “up to 18 hours a day, for no pay, simply to raise money for a charity organisation”.

The RTÉ report said the unregulated organisation did not give chemical assistance or professional counselling to residents, who were told to use prayer.

Victory Outreach began working in Ireland in 1997 and is part of a US-based organisation which operates “churches” in more than 20 countries. Victory Outreach Dublin operates five recovery homes, spokesman Stuart Murphy said.

Mr Murphy told The Irish Times yesterday that residents fundraised voluntarily and money raised was used to fund the organisation which received no State monies. The earliest a team started fundraising was 9.30am or 10am, he said.
Cold turkey
Asked about residents going “cold turkey” Mr Murphy said they were aware of this “when taken in” and there are “no locks on the doors”.

Mr Murphy said he himself had come through the programme 13 years ago and survived.

There were three basic parts to the programme: restoration of family, a positive work ethic and a relationship with Christ, he said.

He would like to see regulation of treatment organisations “the sooner the better” as they then would not have to “sell raffle tickets” and the staff “might get wages”, he said.

The Department of Health said addiction services which are funded by the HSE are required to meet “minimum standards ”.

Victory Outreach was “not funded by the HSE” and there was “currently no provision” in law for regulation of residential treatment or rehabilitation centres specialising in addiction, it said.

Unlike many other services operating in Dublin, the organisation has no waiting list and will assist most addicts who contact it.
The Prime Time report pointed out there were an estimated 20,000 heroin addicts in the State but just one professionally supervised detox bed for every 400 addicts in Dublin. “This shortage has led addicts to engage with private and unregulated organisations,” RTÉ said in a statement ahead of the programme.

There was “definitely a gap in service provision that needs to be filled,” Tony Duffin, director of the Anna Liffey Drug Project (ALDP) told The Irish Times yesterday. It can be “difficult for people actively using drugs” to access residential treatment as many services require them to reach a level of stability beforehand. ALDP would like to open residential units where people can “refer themselves” based “solely on need” .

According to 2012 accounts registered with the company’s office, the charity, registered as Urban Outreach Limited, had an income of almost €280,000 and a deficit of €13,000. This is made up of donations of more than €168,000 and rental income of almost €111,000. Its main expenditure was rental income of €150,000.

Victory Outreach’s US organisation was subject to controversy last year after a Boston Globe investigation found a contractor was paying illegally low wages to workers from the church to renovate hotels .

Five cent vegetable price wars now very aggressive says Irish Minister Coveney


Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has said he cannot control the “very aggressive” vegetable price wars which are putting vegetable growers under increasing pressure.

Stores are offering extraordinary bargains like a 1kg bags of onions, potatoes, or carrots for as little as five cents. Brussels sprouts and parsnips are also being offered at the same rock bottom price.

Supermarket giants Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes Stores are dropping prices to unprecedented lows in the bid to win savvy customers.

Mr Coveney said today that new legislation will be introduced to bind supermarkets to the terms of contracts they’ve signed with food producers.

He said he will introduce the mandatory code of conduct “within weeks, if not months” to protect producers from unfair treatment.

“We are seeing at the moment a very aggressive price war where supermarkets are using vegetables as a loss leader to get people into their stores.”

However, he admitted on RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland today that “it’s not going to solve every problem”.

A “worrying situation” has developed in the battle of supermarkets to beat down prices, and “many producers who are reliant on just one retailer so that means they’re very exposed”.

He said the new legislation which will be introduced by the end of February will protect producers.

“It’ll protect primary producers to ensure the contracts they’ve signed are fully respected for the lifetime of the contracts.”

A new protein test made in Ireland can help doctors spot if you are having a heart attack


New tool could reduce time to diagnosis of a cardiac event – and is especially helpful in women.

A Diagnostic test developed and being manufactured in Longford could be an important weapon in the arsenal of doctors trying to assess if someone is having a heart attack.

The test – called the ARCHITECT Stat High Sensitive Troponin-I – is being used at the Mater public and private hospitals in Dublin at the moment and it is hoped that it will be rolled out at other cardiology units across the country.

It is able to measure very low levels of the protein known as cardiac troponin, which indicates someone is having a heart attack. However, previous tests through blood sample could only measure this protein when it reached a certain level, which could delay diagnosis by a few precious hours.

Dr Niall Mahon said that this test – developed by Abbott Longford – could “speed up” the diagnosis of serious heart attacks and help medics to intervene quicker. The speed factor is particularly helpful in diagnosing women who might be having a heart attack as they can show different symptoms from men and are generally under-diagnosed and under-treated for heart attacks.

He said: The high-sensitive assay (test) may help physicians to rule in and rule out acute myocardial injury… the sensitivity of this assay is unique in that it has potential for earlier diagnosis in women.

One in 10 people believe coffee causes cancer (but it does not)


Almost 10 per cent of British adults wrongly think coffee causes cancer, a new study has found.

Around one in 10 British adults mistakenly think coffee causes cancer, with 9 per cent of those polled believing that consuming the drink can lead to developing the disease.

“There is no scientific evidence that coffee causes any form of cancer but the latest analysis of research has shown that it can have a preventative effect against womb cancer and there are suggestions it may protect against liver cancer,” the charity said in a statement.

Six per cent say of those surveyed said that coffee can protect against the disease. One in 10 meanwhile, think caffeine can help with weight loss, despite, according to the WCRF, there being no scientific evidence for the assumption.

Furthermore, more than one in five were found to believe caffeine is the “most dangerous” substance in coffee, when the highest health risk associated with the drink is sugar and full-fat milk or cream that is added to it, the charity said.

Dr Rachel Thompson, head of research interpretation at the charity said: “New evidence from our Continuous Update Project (CUP) suggests drinking coffee may decrease the risk of womb cancer, but there are still too many unanswered questions – such as how many cups we should drink, or how regularly – for us to provide any advice on coffee drinking.”

“The CUP has found no consistent evidence that suggests coffee increases or decreases the risk of any other cancers but we are continually reviewing the evidence to see if this changes.”

Geologists find diamond-producing rocks in Antarctica

Geologists find diamond-producing rocks in Antarctica 

For the first time ever, geologists working in Antarctica have found a type of rock that’s known to bear diamonds — a discovery that could expose the polar continent to opportunistic prospectors.

Called kimberlite, it’s a volcanic rock named after the town of Kimberley in South Africa, where the discovery of an 83.5-carat (16.7 g) diamond in 1871 kick-started a diamond rush. These rocks appear in vertical structures called kimberlite pipes — the single most important source of mined diamonds today. The rocks were found around Mount Meredith in the Prince Charles Mountains.

The geologists who discovered the kimberlite samples didn’t find any diamonds, but they’re now wondering if the icy continent contains vast mineral riches.

Antarctica is currently off limits to mining. In 1991, 50 signatories signed the Antarctic Treaty, an environmental accord that’s set to expire in 2041. The treaty was put in place as a way to preserve the continent for scientific research and wildlife. The accord, which is only binding to the 50 nations who signed it (including the US and China), is expected to be extended when it expires.

“We do not know what the Treaty Parties’ views will be on mining after 2041 or what technologies might exist that could make extraction of Antarctic minerals economically viable,” said Kevin Hughes, of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

Mr Riley said there was a fine line between geological mapping and prospecting with an eye to mining. Nations including Russia, Ukraine and China have been more active in surveying Antarctica in recent years.

Indeed, if there’s diamonds in them thar icy hills, it won’t be easy to extract. The geologists who conducted the study doubt that the find could be commercially viable, citing Antarctica’s remoteness, cold, and winter darkness. But where there’s a will — or profit — there’s a way.