New Office for Fairness and Transparency
This Bill approved by Cabinet in March, will allow for the establishment of an Office for Fairness and Transparency. The role of this new office will be to provide for principles of fairness and transparency in the agricultural and food supply chain, to strengthen the position of farmers, fishers and other suppliers and in addition carry out reporting and analysis of price and market data.
The Bill also provides that the new Office will be the Enforcement Authority concerning prohibited unfair trading practices (UTPs) in the agricultural and food supply chain. This office will have authority to enter premises, request and demand information and to issue legal notices if necessary to those in breach of the UTPs directive.
The Enforcement Authority (EA) is already established within The Department of Agriculture but will transfer to the new Office of Fairness and Transparency when established.
The Bill also assigns powers to allow the Minister to extend, amend and add to existing Unfair Trading Practices. There is an opportunity for IFA to demand that addition powers are added to the bill before its passes into law.
IFA commodity committees have been requested to give feedback on what IFA should include in our submission by Friday 20th May. IFA policy position will be put to the June 2022 IFA Council for approval.
The Minister indicated that he is not in favour of a re-introduction of a ban on below cost selling but did indicate that he may be in a position to support a ban on below cost buying by larger retailers.
When will the new office come into effect?
The Minister indicated at a seminar in Backweston on Thursday 5th May that the Bill will be debated in the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee (JOC) and the houses of the Oireachtas before the Summer recess in Mid-July. If passed this will lead to the establishment of the Office of Fairness and Transparency by Quarter 4 2022.
General functions and role of the Office
- Promote fairness and transparency in the agricultural and food supply chain and in particular for farmers, fishers and small food businesses.
- Make available analysis of information on price and market data.
- Enforce compliance in unfair trading practices.
- Refer cases to the Director of Public Prosecutions where the Office deems necessary.
The Office will have a Board which shall consist of the following members:
Board and membership appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine
- 5 ordinary members, of which two shall be primary producers.
- The Board shall establish relevant committees.
- IFA will look to have representation on both the Board and relevant committees.
- CEO of the Office, selected by the Board and to be approved by the Minister.
NOTE: Bill relates to Directive (EC) 2019/633 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain.