Thursday, 15 July 2021

Questions (58)

Brendan Smith

Question:

58. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the actions he is taking to prohibit unfair trading practices in order to strengthen the position of primary producers in the agri-food sector. [38525/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am fully committed to delivering much-needed transparency in the supply chain.

The Deputy will be aware also that one of the key principles of the Directive on Unfair Trading Practices in Business-to-Business Relationships in the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain is to protect farmers, farmers’ organisations and other weaker suppliers of agricultural and food products against stronger buyers, and to improve their position in the supply chain.

I signed Statutory Instrument No. 198 of 2021 transposing the UTP Directive into Irish law on 28th April 2021, Ireland being one of eight Member States to do so ahead of the EU deadline of 1st May 2021.

The new Regulations transpose the Directive directly and are a significant step in progressing towards a more even playing field for our agricultural producers. There are in total 16 Unfair Trading Practices included in the Regulations. The new legislation also provide for the establishment of an Enforcement Authority to deal with complaints against unfair trading practices. I have established the Enforcement Authority in my Department as an interim measure pending the finalisation of primary legislation to establish a new Office of National Food Ombudsman/ Regulator or equivalent Office. The Enforcement Authority has the power to investigate complaints from suppliers, including primary producers, carry out investigations on its own initiative and initiate legal proceedings for breaches of the UTPs.

Increasing transparency all along the food chain is something that I believe is very important to strengthen the position of primary producers. The Programme for Government commits that the new Office of the Food Ombudsman or equivalent will have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland, as well as enforcing the UTP Directive. I intend that the new Office will build on the work already done on market transparency, including the market transparency studies commissioned by my Department as part of the work of the Beef Taskforce, which have been completed and published on gov.ie.

I am currently ensuring that the primary legislation needed to establish the new Office of National Food Ombudsman or Regulator or equivalent is being prepared as a priority action. The public consultation for that legislation closed recently. The submissions received will assist in determining what additional functions or powers should be assigned to the new Office and if any further rules or UTPs should be introduced that would go beyond those already included in the current UTP Regulations. Once established, the new Office will, I believe, provide an important service to those in the agriculture and food supply chain.