Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Challenges in the Pig, Poultry and Horticulture Sectors: Irish Farmers Association

Photo of Tim LombardTim Lombard (Fine Gael)
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It is great to see the president and members of the IFA. Much has been covered. We have representatives here from the pig, poultry and horticulture sectors. It is obvious that the system is broken and that is why the witnesses are before us. This can be compared with the dairy sector, where we have a co-operative movement, and there are not the same governance issues encountered by farmers. If Nigel has a problem with his milk price, he can go to the Bandon or Carbery co-operatives. There is a line of command all the way. In this scenario, farmers are very vulnerable when it comes to the retailer. Other members have mentioned where the processor fits into this sector. They are not co-operatives, but private industries in many ways themselves and they must make a buck too. Tying the farmer, the processor and the retailer in together to make sure that farming at the primary level can be supported is a significant issue. Do the witnesses believe the food ombudsman is the silver bullet to solve this? We need to progress legislation to have the capability to tie all three together.

The UK model has worked to a degree. It is not the success story that we have talked about here. I am concerned that the silver bullet that we have talked about, which is the ombudsman, and that person tying all three entities together within years will require a huge amount of work. We need a template of how that can help. I am interested in the witnesses' views. Is the ombudsman the silver bullet for the industry? Can it be legislated for appropriately and financed appropriately? What membership and workforce will the ombudsman's office have to deal with these substantial, complex issues? We have seen success with ombudsmen. Ms Dixon is in charge of data protection and is undoubtedly one of the most competent and capable people in Europe. There are issues with ombudsmen around Ireland. They have not been the success story that we have talked about before.

Will the president tell me his vision of what power the ombudsman would have? How would the ombudsman deal directly with all three entities that are being talked about? How does he believe that body can be funded appropriately? Who should fund it, so that it can deliver for farmers at the farm gate?