Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has welcomed the publication of a report on the legislation establishing an office responsible for the implementation of the Unfair Trading Practices directive.
The Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine compiled the report following a series of hearings with stakeholders and following examination of the General Scheme of Minister McConalogue’s proposed Office for Transparency & Fairness.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Government’s long-standing commitment to establish a ‘Food Ombudsman’ was against a demand by farmers for a ‘Meat Regulator’. Instead, the Minister has proposed an “Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri Food Supply Chain”.
“Following in depth analysis of the General Scheme for the legislation the Oireachtas Agriculture committee has agreed that the current proposal will not provide the necessary protection to farmers. Nor will it have the powers required to hold dominant retailers and processors accountable for engaging in unfair trading practices.
“Farmers and consumers need a Food Regulator with real teeth that will protect farmers within the market chain. While farmers will welcome any progress on this long overdue legislation, it is widely accepted that the legislation, as currently envisaged by the Minister will not deliver the rebalance in trading relationships that is required.
“This bill as it stands represents a continuation of a minimalistic approach that fails to adequately regulate imbalances in the food supply chain.
“An appropriate regulator should have the powers and teeth to tackle unfair trading and cartel like practices within the sector – instead the proposed body will have very limited scope to review information that is already publicly available and to enforce a very narrow range of banned unfair practices.
“The report of the Oireachtas Committee Agriculture represents a significant rebuke of the Ministers proposals, calling into question whether or not the Bill is even ‘fit for purpose’.
“It contains key recommendations as to the exact powers and format the Committee believe this regulator must take if it is to assume the mantle farmers rightly demand.
“I urge Minister McConalogue to head this report and ensure each recommendation is duly considered ahead of introducing his Bill in the Dáil.
“Sinn Féin will work constructively with the Minister and the members of the Agriculture committee to ensure that this legislation delivers what is clearly required – a food regulator with real strength and depth.”