I thank Deputy Berry and congratulate him on his election. I have not had the opportunity to wish him well. I know he has a strong interest in agriculture.
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.
Directive (EU) No. 2019/633, the unfair trading practices directive, must be transposed into Irish law by 1 May 2021. This can be done by way of a statutory instrument but any measures that extend beyond the minimum harmonisation requirements of the unfair trading practices directive will require primary legislation. For this reason, I propose to adopt a two-step approach to this commitment. First, my officials are drafting a proposal for a statutory instrument to directly transpose the unfair trading practices directive as it stands. Second, the legal requirements for the establishment of a new office of a food ombudsman are also being considered, including the requirement for primary legislation to give that office additional powers going beyond those in the unfair trading practices directive.