German sausage price war wurst for farmers
A quiet price war between Germany's discount supermarkets is putting farmers under huge economic pressure, with sausage and meat products the latest to see prices drop.
Discount supermarkets such as Norma and Aldi have led the way with price wars on particular products, the Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported on Monday. First to be hit were eggs, followed by instant coffee, wine and then fish. Now the low prices are being applied to meat products,
Agriculture Minister for Schleswig Holstein state, Robert Habeck, said this was bad news for farmers. He explained that the race to the bottom on prices was a disgrace, as it prevented farmers from profiting from reduced feed costs.
"These offers which are tempting for customers, put the thumb screws on farmers and force them into producing quantity rather than quantity - they destroy everything that makes any political sense," said Habeck.
"It drives a system where the welfare of the animal is secondary, and in which unnecessary suffering of animals is increased by law breaking in slaughterhouses."
Aldi and Norma have justified the low prices, pointing to better purchasing conditions, with a spokesman for Norma saying that due to "current developments on the international commodity markets, new pricing policies can be implemented."
An Aldi statement said the chain always passed on any savings made through such commodity price reductions to the customer. It said compromises were not being made in quality or animal protection standards.
The Berlin Zeitung said animal feed prices were significantly low - with pig feed down by around a fifth on a year ago. But it pointed out that the huge purchasing power of the large supermarket chains meant they could prevent farmers from profiting from the feed prices.
Aldi, which defines itself by having low prices, leads the way for other supermarket chains which often follow suit with reductions on the product ranges already selected by Aldi, a trend seen in particular on basics such as milk and butter, the newspaper said.
The families which own Aldi and Lidl appear regularly in international rich lists, with Karl Albrecht, the 94-year-old who owns Aldi Süd, named Germany's wealthiest man this year, valued at $25 billion.