A fresh confrontation is looming in the Irish Republic between food producers and multiples over the latest price war initiated by Tesco. After a battle over cut-price milk (which they lost) and over frozen New Zealand lamb (which they won), Irish farmers are gearing up for a fight over "cheap" fruit and vegetables being offered by the major supermarket chains. And they intend lobbying government to have such produce included in the list of goods covered by the ban on below-cost selling. Irish growers sell 75% of their produce to the multiples. But in the latest round of price-cutting, there have been huge reductions across a wide range of fruit and vegetables, with both Tesco and Superquinn, for instance, selling cabbages as low as 9p each and parsnips for as little as 9p a kg. "Our produce is being sold at below cost," says Kevin Harrington of the Irish Farmers' Association. "If this is allowed to continue, it is only a matter of time before growers are asked to take a cut in the prices multiples pay them. They're already finding it difficult to survive and any reduction in their returns will force them out of the business or into bankruptcy." In an effort to have the price cuts reversed, the IFA made direct representations to Superquinn, whose founder and chief executive, Feargal Quinn, is a member of the Irish Senate. The chain promised "to review the cuts", though Senator Quinn claimed that lower prices meant more sales, with everyone benefiting. A Tesco spokesman said the company "meets the IFA regularly and listens to its opinions" but follows its own pricing strategy. He added: "We work closely with our growers, who are generally happy with any arrangements we have made." However, the Irish Competition Authority has now intervened in the skirmishing, warning that it plans to investigate the lobbying of Superquinn by farmers. Its secretary, Ciaran Quigley, said: "If supermarkets are leaned on in this matter, it would be contrary to the Competition Act and against the law." {{NEWS }}