New body needed to combat unfair trading practices – TD

The Government needs to give urgent attention to establishing an independent body to enforce the EU’s unfair trading practices directive in the agricultural and food supply chain, according to deputy Carol Nolan.

The independent TD for Laois-Offaly called on both the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to consider such a statutory body.

Deputy Nolan was speaking after she engaged with a number of farmers who have made submissions on the EU directive, which is due to come into force in May 2021.

The farmers I have been engaging with have no confidence in the existing statutory framework and in particular they have little or no confidence in the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission [CCPC].

The key concern is around tackling unfair trading practices which effectively embed cheap food polices into the supply chain, deputy Nolan claimed.

“This has been going on for years and it has to be addressed – not least because of the way in which such practices legitimise the expectation that farmers should take a major financial hit despite the massive production costs and the work that goes into supplying produce.

“The CCPC has been around since 2014 – and during that time farmers, and indeed their representative bodies, have lost confidence in the commission to deliver meaningful change.”

Farmers cannot wait another six years while the CCPC continues along the same path, the TD said.

A new independent body is necessary; one that will have the enforcement authority required and the capacity to generate confidence among farmers and suppliers.

The independent TD said that “many” farmers in Laois and Offaly have to take up additional employment as seasonal workers to generate income “that is simply not coming in due to unfair pricing and trading”.

“But even they have been hit recently with the layoffs at Bord na Móna,” she added.

This clearly shows that financial sustainability for farmers should be a key justice priority for Government. For these reasons both ministers need to step up and address the current regulatory deficit.

“Farmers cannot be expected to wait until May 2021 for that to happen,” concluded deputy Nolan.