Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has expressed his opposition to retailers in Ireland selling Irish agri-food produce below the cost of production, calling for “respect right across the food supply chain”.

Speaking to Agriland’s Stella Meehan during a trade mission in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) today (Monday, February 14), Minister McConalogue also said that he is “hoping” to have legislation to establish the National Food Ombudsman introduced in the current quarter of this year.

“I don’t think retailers should be selling at below the cost of production. I think there should be respect right across the food supply chain for the work that our family farms do,” he said.

The minister noted that retailers are entitled to make a profit, but added that “it’s really important that there is a strong, healthy relationship between retailers and farmers”.

“It’s also important that that relationship is clear and communicated to customers, because I think customers want to see that everybody across the food supply chain – particularly those who put in the graft, hard work, early mornings, and late nights at farmgate level – is properly rewarded and compensated for the work that they do,” he added.

According to Minister McConalogue, ultimately the price of the food on store shelves is a matter for retailers and market considerations.

However, he called on retailers to ensure that they “reflect in how they market their products – and how they sell them – proper respect and payment through that to farm families”.

On the office of National Food Ombudsman, the minister said he is hoping to get the legislation introduced in this Dáil term and have the office established sometime this year.

His officials are currently engaging with the Attorney General’s office to draft the legislation.

“It will be a very useful mechanism and facilitator in relation to assessing what’s happening in the market place; someone who does not have a vested interest in the system, someone who is shedding a light on what’s going on and brining that transparency; and also trying to improve the relationship between retailers, processors and farmers,” the minister said.