Minister McConalogue has secured Cabinet approval for a bill to establish a new office for fairness and transparency in the agri-food supply chain.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine made the announcement yesterday (Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022).
When enacted, this bill will establish a new independent statutory authority known as the ‘Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri-Food Supply Chain’.
The office’s objective will be to promote the principles of fairness and transparency in the agricultural and food supply chain.
The bill provides that the new office will be led by a board and will have a chief executive officer.
The DAFM said the office would principally do this in two ways:
- By performing a price/market analysis and reporting function. The European Commission has called on member states to enhance agricultural and food market transparency at union level. This includes improving the collection of statistical data necessary for the analysis of price formation mechanisms along the agricultural and food supply chain. The new office will endeavour to bring “greater transparency” to the agricultural and food supply chain. It will do this by carrying out market analysis on publicly available agricultural and food supply chain data. It will produce reports that it will make available to stakeholders and the wider public;
- Responsibility for ensuring that fairness is observed in the agricultural and food supply chain. It will become the state’s designated enforcement authority for enforcing the rules on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain.
Penalise those who breach regulations
The DAFM confirmed that the office would engage with retailers, processors, wholesalers, farmers, fishers, and others on matters impacting fairness and transparency in the agri-food supply chain.
According to the DAFM, the 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.
Previously, farm groups said that the food ombudsman/regulator “must have real teeth and be able to hold processors and retailers to account”.
Minister McConalogue said the new office will be “an advocate” for farmers and fishers and other small food businesses in the agricultural and food supply chain to help them “improve their position” and to bring “greater transparency and fairness” all along the supply chain.
He said this is an “important” step in fulfilling the Programme for Government commitment. McConalogue believes this will bring “greater fairness, equity, and transparency” to the agricultural and food supply chain.
Concerning the Unfair Trading Practices Directive, currently enforced by the interim UTP Enforcement Authority in the DAFM, McConalogue intends to repeal the current UTP.
Instead, he plans to use the enabling provisions in the bill to provide for the transfer of responsibility for UTP enforcement functions from his department to the remit of the new office.
The DAFM expects this to occur at the time of commencement of the act.