Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has welcomed the Minister’s acceptance of key Sinn Féin amendments to the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain Bill 2022.
The Bill will establish an Agri-Food Regulator, a call from farmers and representative organisations for many years. Sinn Féin have long-called for the establishment of such a Regulator to provide much-needed oversight and transparency in the agri-food supply chain.
However, the Minister has refused to include crucial amendments on competition in the agri-food supply chain submitted by Teachta Kerrane and Teachta Martin Browne.
This represents a missed opportunity and ignores the calls from Farmers and farm organisations for the Regulator to have the power to investigate anti-competitive practices in the agri-food supply chain.
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said
“I welcome Minister McConalogue accepting key Sinn Féin amendments to this important Bill.
“My party colleagues Matt Carthy and Martin Browne have worked extensively on this Bill from the start, and have engaged with farmers to ensure they are represented as part of this process.
“The Minister agreed to our amendment increasing the number of farmers to be members of the Board of the Regulator. There will now be three Farmers out of the seven ordinary Members. We welcome this and the voice it will afford to Farmers.
“He also accepted our amendments which will ensure that the Regulator will have the authority to seek all the information from Businesses that it needs to carry out its role effectively, and to recognise the full breadth of the agri-food supply chain, from producer through to consumer, within the scope of the Regulator.
“However, while our amendments to this Bill will result in a better Regulator, the Minister refused to deal with the issue of competition in the agri-food supply chain.
“The Minister refused to accept our amendment to give the Regulator powers to investigate anti-competitive practices – this really is and has been the nub of the issue when it comes to the price the primary producer receives. This was the reason Farmers stood at factory gates back during the beef protests.
“The Minister insists that the Competition & Consumer Protection Commission already have the powers to investigate competition issues yet, clearly they have not done this. If they were dealing with these issues then Farmers and farm organisations wouldn’t have sought the Regulator to do the same job.
“We pushed this issue to a vote however, the vote was defeated. I think this is a missed opportunity.
“The Regulator of course, is new and we will wait and see what it does in the weeks and months ahead once it is formally established. It is going to have a really important role in shining a light on the agri-food sector, making it more transparent and fair and it will have a major responsibility to the primary producer, one which I hope it can meet.”