Tuesday, 5 October 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
776. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of cases that have been raised with the unfair trading practices unit within his Department; the current status or resolution of those cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48118/21]
777. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a head of unit will be appointed to the unfair trading practices unit within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48119/21]
778. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the expenditure that has arisen from the unfair trading practices unit within his Department to date in 2021; the items the spending related to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48120/21]
779. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the expenditure that has arisen from promoting, marketing or educating producers on the unfair trading practices unit within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48121/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 776 to 779, inclusive, together.
As the Deputy will be aware, one of the key principles of the Directiveon Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain is to protect farmers, farmers’ organisations and other weaker suppliers of agricultural and food products against stronger buyers and to improve their position in the supply chain.
I signed Statutory Instrument No. 198 of 2021 transposing the UTP Directive into Regulations applicable to Irish law on 28th April 2021, ahead of the EU deadline of 1st May 2021. These Regulations are an important tool in strengthening the position of primary producers, who are key to the success of our sector.
The Regulations provide for the establishment of an Enforcement Authority to deal with complaints against unfair trading practices and, as an interim measure, I established the Enforcement Authority in my Department pending the finalisation of primary legislation to establish a new Office of National Food Ombudsman or Regulator.
The Enforcement Authority has the power to investigate complaints made by agricultural and food product suppliers. The Authority may also initiate and conduct investigations on its own initiative and initiate legal proceedings for breaches of the UTPs.
The Authority currently has two full-time staff members, including a head of unit, and further staff resources will be allocated to it shortly. Work is ongoing to develop a communications and awareness-raising campaign which will commence shortly. No complaints have yet been received nor has the Authority initiated any investigations at this stage. The Authority has not incurred any expenditure other than salary costs to-date.
I am fully committed to bringing forward legislation at an early date to establish a National Food Ombudsman or Regulator office that will bring greater levels of transparency to the sector.