Minister of Agriculture Charlie McConalogue will this week unveil details of a new government agency tasked with cracking down on unfair trade practices in the agri-food industry. The new agency could be funded in part by a levy from major food producers and processors.
r McConalogue will submit proposals to Cabinet on Tuesday to set up a new Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Farm and Food Supply Chain – an agency that will be similar to the long-proposed Food Ombudsman.
The new office will aim to bring more transparency to the sector by conducting market analysis using publicly available data and producing reports.
Farmers have been very critical of food processors for several years, claiming that they set unfair prices, particularly in the beef sector. In 2019 there were protests in front of meat and food processing plants across the country.
More recently, the Irish Farmers’ Union protested outside Dunnes Stores at its members’ demands for an increase in wages for their produce.
The new office will also act as the enforcement authority for enforcing EU rules on unfair trading practices between companies involved in the food supply chain. There is a fee for filing complaints about unfair trading practices.
Mr. McConalogue hopes that the increased availability of market intelligence will strengthen these suppliers’ position in the industry and level the playing field for smaller manufacturers.
The office will have a budget of €4 million for its establishment once the legislation that underpins it – the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain Act 2022 – is passed — is passed. However, the bill also includes a provision empowering the minister to set a fee for filing complaints about suspected unfair trading practices.
A levy will also be imposed on what the Agriculture Department says are “more economically powerful actors in the agricultural and food supply chain” should it become necessary to offset some of the costs of managing the new office and enforcing rules against unfair trade practices.
The provisions of the draft law provide that the levy can be based on the total turnover, below which it would be free of charge.
The IFA has previously said that any such body should have full investigative powers and the ability to impose sanctions.
Mr McConalogue has previously said he wants the office to be one “with real teeth” and one that “sheds a light of transparency on parts of the supply chain to improve farmers’ negotiating hand”.
Mr McConalogue and his officials originally planned to name the new agency the National Food Ombudsman, but following a consultation process it was decided that the term Ombudsman was not appropriate or appropriate for an agency carrying out the intended regulatory functions.
The establishment of the agency will meet an EU requirement to increase transparency in agri-food markets by improving the collection of statistical data used to analyze pricing in the agri-food supply chain.
The government expects legislation underpinning the new post to go through the Dáil and Seanad before the summer. The office will have a board of directors and a managing director, and will operate independently – but under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture, in a manner similar to to Facilities such as Bord Bia.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/farmers-win-as-new-state-agency-promises-to-probe-unfair-farm-food-prices-41467140.html Farmers win as a new state agency promises to investigate unfair farm food prices