Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (1026, 1048)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

1026. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the proposed food ombudsman office will be established and operational; the number of staff the food ombudsman office will have; the enforcement ability this office will have; and if this office will tackle the cartel that exists in the beef sector. [8655/21]

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Claire Kerrane

Question:

1048. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the powers the proposed food ombudsman will have and specifically in the case of beef production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8875/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1026 and 1048 together.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to:

Ensure fairness, equity, and transparency in the food chain by establishing a new authority called the National Food Ombudsman (NFO) to enforce the Unfair Trading Practices Directive. This new authority will enforce EU-wide rules on prohibited unfair trading practices in the food supply chain and will have powers to enforce this Directive, penalising those who breach regulations. The NFO will have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland.

My Department is taking a two step approach to the establishment of the NFO. Firstly a statutory instrument will be drafted to transpose the UTP Directive by the deadline of 1st May 2021. This will provide for an Enforcement Authority which will have the powers as currently provided for in the Directive. The legislative and operational requirements for establishing a new Office of a Food Ombudsman or equivalent that might provide for functions other than those provided for in the UTP Directive are being examined. Primary legislation will be required both to establish this new authority, and to provide for any further powers which may be given to that office. My Department is giving this matter priority.

The UTP Directive does not address issues of price determination or negotiation. While the new authority will have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland, it is important to be aware, however, that this authority will not have a role in determining price. It is intended that there will be a national consultation process on the functions of the NFO prior to the primary legislation being enacted.

In addition, the Beef Taskforce work on price transparency, and the completion of the three market transparency studies commissioned by my Department, will be an important step towards improving visibility of the complex supply chain which is integral in fostering trust and enhancing supply chain relationships. These studies will act as an important starting point for driving increased transparency. It is more important than ever that we all work together given the unique set of challenges currently faced by the sector. Continued strong and constructive engagement in the Beef Taskforce is key to meeting these challenges.