Banning the below-cost selling of food by retailers must top the agenda of a new statutory body, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

The Cabinet yesterday (Tuesday, March 22) approved a general scheme of the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain Bill 2022, which will, when enacted, establish the Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri-Food Supply Chain.

The ICMSA president said that such an office has “the potential to be game changing” in terms of regaining control of the food-supply chain from retailers.

Pat McCormack claimed that retail corporations had made the system “unsustainable and dysfunctional”.

The farming group will be seeking representation on the board that will govern the new authority. McCormack warned against establishing another “toothless watchdog agency”.

The ICMSA president stated that the new ‘food ombudsman’ office’s remit “could not be simpler” – to rebalance the “completely lopsided” food supply chain.

He said that currently farmers, who have the highest costs, are getting the lowest margins while retailers, who did the least work, are able to dictate prices.

The new office coupled with recent global events would reflect what McCormack described as “the new reality” of food supply and prices. He said this would mean bringing an end to the “decades-long era of cheap food”.

“The Irish government has belatedly come to understand that we can either have naturally superb food produced in an environmentally sustainable and secure way by family farms, or we can continue with the present cheap food system driven by corporate greed with the implications that has for our national, environmental, and social future. But we can’t have both,” McCormack said.