Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Agricultural and Food Supply Chain Bill 2022: Second Stage (Resumed)


3:55 pm

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I welcome this long-promised and long-awaited legislation. We have been waiting over a year for it and there have been multiple promised delivery dates that were later than what farmers would have wished for, particularly in light of the current inflationary pressures and input costs. An appropriate and empowered sectoral regulator has the potential to finally deliver a level playing field for our farming families. This has been demanded by and is especially important to our beef and sheep farmers who simply do not receive a fair price for their produce.

It is welcome that the Minister has accepted a number of the recommendations that came out of the pre-legislative scrutiny report of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which has questioned if the Minister’s draft Bill is even fit for purpose. Despite delays, the draft Bill appeared to be rushed and was not in keeping with the best regulatory practice we see. It lacked the teeth to tackle unfair trading practices, which farmers had been demanding and which in recent years have been granted to other regulatory authorities in the State.

There remains, however, some way to go if this new office is to deliver the fairness and transparency in the agrifood supply chain that the Minister has said he wants to deliver. As it stands, the new office will provide little in additional data on agrifood supply chains, which is a problem. It is a matter of public knowledge what farmers get paid and we also know what food costs. This regulator cannot simply be responsible for collating that information and then putting it in the public domain. It must be empowered to examine the margins throughout the length of the agrifood supply chain. That is vital. In the same vein, if full transparency is to be provided, the scope of the office cannot be limited to business-to-business relationships and needs to be extended to business-to-consumer relationships.

My Sinn Féin colleagues on the Select Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine will bring forward amendments to strengthen and empower the regulator further. We stand ready to work with the Minister and we look forward to bringing forward proposals to deliver a regulator that can have a real impact on the lives and livelihoods of farming families, which is so desperately needed.


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