Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine this afternoon (Tues), IFA President John Bryan said farmers are very disappointed with the Government’s delay in the publication of the Consumer and Competition Bill, which is to include a Statutory Code of Practice for the Grocery Goods Sector.
John Bryan said the Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton had made repeated promises that this legislation would be prioritised and published firstly in 2011 and then in 2012. “IFA understands that the legislation has been ‘A’ listed for Government approval since last Autumn. The Government’s inaction on this is unacceptable.”
“The retail multiples are over dominant in the food supply chain and are engaged in unfair and predatory pricing practices, which are impacting very negatively on the viability of primary producers. Legislation at national and EU level is needed to ensure producers are paid a fair price which reflects production costs and leaves an acceptable margin.”
On labelling, the IFA President said the Government must close the loopholes in the labelling legislation, which are misleading consumers and short-changing producers. “Irish farmers are proud to produce food in an environmentally sustainable way, to the highest standards of traceability, quality, safety and animal welfare, in the world.”
He said lessons must be learned from the horsemeat DNA episode and it is clear that there must be stricter controls on secondary processors, particularly in relation to the use of imported meat products.
IFA’s position is as follows:
any serious breach in regulations or lapse in standards that results in damage to the reputation of the Irish food sector, should lead to proportionate penalties where guilty of an offence including the possible loss of a licence for the processor involved;
the Department of Agriculture must introduce real transparency in the supply chain and should publish the names of companies importing meat and the volumes involved, on a monthly basis;
only Irish raw materials should be used in meat products that are labelled and sold as Irish;
clear and accurate labelling must be implemented right across the food chain to include the retail sector, butchers, food service and restaurants.
Food labelling must:
firstly, serve consumers by upholding their right to clear and straight forward information on the origin of product; and
secondly, it must safeguard producers by ensuring transparency and fair competition from imported product.
John Bryan said, “To give the consumer an informed choice on all meats, similar to that currently on beef, the Government must legislate so that there is an obligation on all food business operators, retailers and the whole food catering and service sector, to say where their product is produced”.