Written answers

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Food Industry

Photo of Patricia RyanPatricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
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346. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the promised food ombudsman will be appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56651/21]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy will be aware of the commitment in the Programme for Government to establish a new office of National Food Ombudsman, or equivalent, which will enforce the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive and will also have a role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland. The establishment of such an Office requires primary legislation.

I am happy to advise the Deputy that, in April this year, ahead of the deadline of 1st May 2021, I signed Statutory Instrument No. 198 of 2021 to transpose the UTP Directive directly into Irish law. This was done as an interim measure as it was not possible to enact the primary legislation establishing the Office of National Food Ombudsman, or equivalent, before the May transposition deadline.

Also as an interim measure, I established the UTP Enforcement Authority in my Department pending the finalisation of the primary legislation being prepared to establish the new Office.

This Enforcement Authority has been assigned all of the necessary legal powers to investigate complaints from suppliers, including primary producers, to carry out investigations on its own initiative and to initiate legal proceedings for breaches of the Unfair Trading Practices defined in the Directive.

With regard to the establishment of the new Office of Food Ombudsman or equivalent, the General Scheme of the Bill for the primary legislation is currently being prepared.

As part of those preparations, consideration is being given to the submissions made in response to the public consultation held by the Department earlier this year, as well as to whether the provisions of the UTP Directive need to be extended and to the price and market analysis function of the office.

Once the primary legislation is finalised and the new Office is established, the process for appointing the Head of the Office will be commenced and the Enforcement Authority functions will transfer to the new Office in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. In the meantime, it is open to suppliers to engage with the Enforcement Authority on any concerns they may have in relation to unfair trading practices.

I am fully committed to ensuring that the Programme for Government commitment is implemented as quickly as possible and I am pleased to say that, as announced in the details of Budget 2022, an indicative €4 million has been provided in the estimates for the establishment of the new Office.

I believe that the Regulations I introduced in April are a significant step in progressing towards a more even playing field for our agricultural and food suppliers, providing them with a service that they can avail of with regard to unfair trading practices.


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