The president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has been elected chair of the Copa-Cogeca Food Chain Working Party.

Tim Cullinan has taken over from outgoing chair and former IFA president, Joe Healy.

In his opening address, he called on the Irish government to establish the office of the National Food Ombudsman (NFO) in Ireland without delay following the recent allocation of €4 million for this purpose.

Copa-Cogeca is the representative body for farmers and cooperatives in Europe.

Highlighting the Food Chain Working Party’s instrumental role in advancing the EU Directive on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) in the food-supply chain, Cullinan said:

“This EU Directive is now written into Irish law, similar to most EU member states. It aims to give greater protection against UTPs to suppliers of food and agricultural products dealing directly with retailers.

“It is of particular importance to producers of fresh, perishable products, such as fruit and vegetables, that directly interact with retailer buyers,” he said.

In relation to the requirement of the NFO office in Ireland, he said:

“Budget 2022 has allocated €4 million to the establishment and running of this office, and the government must not delay getting it up and running.

“The primary legislation required to set up this new office of a NFO/food regulator needs to be brought forward and enacted and must provide for tackling UTPs in the food chain beyond the remit of the EU Directive.

“The recently established Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority here in Ireland is an invisible body, and farmers and producers need to see its activity and investigative powers being used to ensure fairness in the supply chain.”

“Below-cost selling and unsustainable discounting of food need to be tackled both by the European Commission and here in Ireland by the Irish government.

He said the NFO/food regulator needs to be given the power to tackle this unfair trading practice which makes farmers and producers unviable by forcing them to produce below the cost of production.

“This, I am committed to pursuing, as chair of the Food Chain Working Party,” he said.