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The Department of Agriculture has launched a public consultation on legislation to establish a new Office of a National Food Ombudsman and the expansion of the scope of the EU Directive on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs)  in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain.

Ireland is taking a two-step approach to the transposition of the EU Directive on UTPs. The first step is the adoption of a Statutory Instrument, which transposes the EU directive directly as is, without amendment. This was published on 28th April and ensures that Ireland has complied and adopted the minimum criteria of the Directive by the May 1st deadline.

These minimum criteria provide a limited scope of protection to SME suppliers (with a turnover under €350 million) from buyers which are larger than them only. Therefore, dairy co-operatives with a turnover under €350 million will be protected, in terms of their role as a supplier to large retail buyers. However, all dairy co-operatives are considered to be buyers in terms of their relationship with their members. Protection is also only afforded for certain practices such as payment delays and last-minute order cancellations.

The second step of the DAFM approach is to draft and adopt primary legislation, an Act, which will outline the role and functions of the designated enforcement authority for the Directive, a National Food Ombudsman. This Act also offers the opportunity to extend the scope of the basic Directive beyond the minimum criteria agreed within the EU legislation.

The creation of an office of a National Food Ombudsman was sought by ICOS, in our feedback to the Department on the implementation of the Directive and is a key action within the current Programme for Government. In addition to enforcing the EU rules on unfair trading practices and the power to investigate and penalise those in breach of the Directive, it is envisioned that the office will have a further role in promoting transparency in the food chain through analysing and reporting on price and market data.

The public consultation opened this week seeks feedback on the specific powers and functions the Ombudsman should have, as well as on how to expand the protection awarded by the Directive so as to improve the position of farmers and primary producers in the marketplace.

The consultation will be open until Wednesday, 26th May 2021 and ICOS will be submitting feedback.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive