The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine held a total of seven days‘ hearings from March 2013 through to July 2013 to engage with relevant stakeholders in the grocery goods sector in Ireland to review the retailer-supplier relationship in the food supply chain.

Presentations were made by representatives from RGDATA, Retail Ireland, Musgrave Group, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Food and Drink Industry Ireland, the Irish Farmers‘ Association, Fresh Milk Producers of Ireland, West Cork Liquid Milk Producers, National Milk Agency, the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.

The committee’s recommendations form part a report on the Grocery Goods Sector, entitled ‘Increasing equity and transparency in producer-processor-retailer relationships’, which was published this morning.

Here is its list of recommendations in full:

Recommendation 1: The committee recommends that a statutory code of conduct in the groceries goods sector be implemented without delay.

Recommendation 2: The committee further recommends that it would be hugely beneficial if there was an independent supermarket Ombudsman to represent the consumer, primary producer or any other third party and oversee the application of the statutory code of conduct.

Recommendation 3: The committee recommends that all multiple suppliers or retailers in the State maintain a statement in writing detailing the terms and conditions upon which they purchase from or supply grocery goods to each grocery undertaking in the State.

Recommendation 4: In relation to the argument that a statutory code would impose undue legal obligations on owners of small to medium-size businesses, the committee considers that there should be a mechanism for a legal support agency for small and medium size enterprises that do not have the resources for huge contractual documents.

Recommendation 5: The committee recommends that adequate resources be committed to ensure the implementation and compliance with all current and future legislation.

Recommendation 6: The committee considers that there is an urgent need for greater transparency with regard to information published by large retailers. The Committee recommends that legislation should be introduced to force the publication of profits and turnovers of the large multiples and large processors operating in this country.

Recommendation 7: The committee recommends that a minimum pricing order on the sale of alcohol should be introduced. The Committee further recommends that the use of staples, such as milk, as loss leaders or its sale below cost should be prohibited under the new proposed code of conduct.

Recommendation 8: The committee considers that the price observatory systems currently in place in France, Spain and Belgium should be closely monitored to assess their contribution to equitable pricing structures.

Recommendation 9:  An all-Ireland market for contracted winter milk should be encouraged through discussions between the Departments of Agriculture North and South to ensure continuity of supply of fresh liquid milk on an All-Ireland basis in the interest of consumers and producers.

Recommendation 10: The committee recommends that the Multiples continue to work closely within their communities and to ensure that a strong link with local produce is maintained.

Recommendation 11: In light of the proposed Common Agriculture Policy reform, regarding producer groups, any obstacles that prevent these groups from negotiating in an organised way should be removed.

Recommendation 12: The committee recognises the importance of detailed, clear and concise labelling to assist the consumer to make informed choices. The committee recommends that tighter rules for labelling be put in place as a matter of priority  and, that in all cases of ‘own brand products’, there must be a prominent display detailing the processor code and country of origin of the product.

Recommendation 13: Labelling requirements should be applied equally across the food and drinks industry.