Farmers need strong enforcement of the new Grocery Goods Regulations, IFA President Joe Healy said at a meeting with Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, Mary Mitchell-O’Connor.
Joe Healy called on the Minister to oversee the enforcement of the new regulations by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CPCC). He said she must ensure the CPCC is very strong in its role of monitoring the compliance of retailers and wholesalers with the legislation, including all the requirements for retailers/wholesalers in staff training, annual compliance reporting and maintaining of records.
“Farmers need contracts that are effective, their complaints must be investigated, and any offenses against the regulations prosecuted. Retailers must be aware that they will be held to account, and farmers need to know the regulations to protect suppliers are being enforced,” Joe Healy said.
The IFA President told the Minister that the new Grocery Regulations will have to lead to a fundamental change by retailers and wholesalers when it comes to paying their suppliers promptly, citing the vulnerability of producers in this situation. “Wholesalers and retailers will have to step up to the mark and comply with the new legislation, which provides for payment within 30 days as a standard provision. There is no justification for retailers or wholesalers to insist on contractual terms longer than the standard 30 days, for short shelf-life products such as fruit, vegetables, milk and other fresh product.”
While he welcomed the progress made in the enactment of the Grocery Goods Regulations, the IFA President said the legislation must go further and provide for a ban on below cost selling and the establishment of an independent retail ombudsman. This would ensure that suppliers who are subject to unfair trading practices by retailers can have confidential and effective recourse to an Independent Ombudsman to investigate and pursue their case. IFA is concerned that the new Competition and Consumer Protection Commission will not be sufficiently focussed on supplier interests to effectively pursue complaints.
At the meeting with Minister Mitchell-O’Connor, the IFA President strongly reiterated IFA’s position that Irish agriculture must not be sacrificed in pursuit of trade deals, in particular with Mercosur countries.
Joe Healy also highlighted concerns on the impact the UK vote to leave the EU would have on competitiveness of Irish producers. In this context, he asked that the Minister would reflect these concerns to the Low Pay Commission.