The establishment of a new authority dubbed the National Food Ombudsman was a commitment included under the Programme for Government agreed earlier this year…but what is the progress on this commitment to date?

This was a question put to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue by independent TD Carol Nolan.

In his response, Minister McConalogue said:

“The Programme for Government includes a commitment to ensure fairness, equity and transparency in the food chain by establishing a new authority called the National Food Ombudsman to enforce the Unfair Trading Practices [UTP] Directive, which must be transposed into Irish law by May 1, 2021; and to have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland.”

A two-step approach is being adopted to this commitment, the minister added, noting:

“Firstly, my department is currently preparing a proposal for a statutory instrument to directly transpose the UTP Directive as it stands.

Secondly, the legal requirements for the establishment of a new Office of a Food Ombudsman are also being considered, including the requirement for primary legislation in order to give that office additional powers going beyond those in the UTP Directive.

“The 2021 Budget includes an initial provision of €1 million to assist with the start up costs for this new office,” the minister said.

Reacting to the minister’s reply, deputy Nolan said:

“In the context of the uncertainty around Brexit; the likely threats to trade and the incoming level of increased complexity that is about to hit our agri-food sector, it is vital that work toward delivering the office of the National Food Ombudsman is escalated.

“Farmers and producers will need every ounce of additional protections that they can get in the near future, both for the internal and external markets,” the Laois-Offaly TD concluded.