The Dáil is set to debate the draft legislation which will pave the way for the long-awaited agri-food regulator this week.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue initially presented the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain Bill 2022 to the Dáil on December 19.

This followed approval from the Cabinet for the draft legislation on November 29.

The bill is due to reach second stage in the Dáil on Thursday (January 19) when TDs will be given time to make statements.

They may also make suggestions on other provisions which they would like to see included in the bill.

If TDs decide to allow the bill to proceed to the third stage, also known as the ‘committee stage’, it will then be examined section by section and amendments may be made.

Agri-food regulator

The new independent statutory authority, which will be known as An Rialtóir Agraibhia (The Agri-Food Regulator), was among the commitments in the Programme for Government in a bid to improve fairness and transparency in the food chain.

Minister Charlie McConalogue has previously said that the regulator will be an office “with real teeth that will be a strong advocate for farmers, fishers and all producers”.

However, some farming organisations have voiced concerns that the regulator has not been given enough power or funding.

The new Agri-Food Regulator will implement a number of key functions:

  • A price and market analysis and reporting function, bringing greater transparency to the agricultural and food supply chain by carrying out analysis and regularly publishing reports on price and market data;
  • Enhancing understanding and enforcement of agri-food unfair trading law, including being designated as the national enforcement authority for the Unfair Trading Practices Directive;
  • The regulator will have the powers to: Investigate suspected breaches; promote alternative dispute resolution procedures between suppliers and buyers; bring proceedings for offences under this bill; refer cases to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) where the regulator believes an indictable offences has been committed;
  • Promoting public awareness about agri-food unfair trading law and related matters including through public information campaigns.

The legislation will allow the new watchdog the scope to issue possible fines of up to €10 million or 10% of a company’s turnover for those found to be engaging in unfair trading practices (UTPs).

Minister McConalogue has said that he wants the new regulator to be “up and running as soon as possible”.