The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has emphasised the urgent need to establish the Office of Fairness and Transparency in the Agri Food Supply Chain. The IFA has stressed that the new food regulator office “cannot be delayed any further” and must be given real powers to address longstanding issues in the industry before it is completely eroded. The horticulture sector is a particular area of concern, as it is “haemorrhaging” and projected to contract by a minimum of 7% this year. The industry has already lost key growers in the past two years, and many more are “hanging on by a knife edge”.
Speaking after a national meeting in relation to the horticulture sector, IFA president Tim Cullinan said that “illegal and unfair” trading practices at any stage of the food supply chain “will not be tolerated”. The IFA will bring these practices to the attention of the relevant authorities. Niall McCormack, the IFA’s Fruit and Vegetable Committee chairperson, stressed that the new food regulator office must be robust and the legislation must give real powers to address these issues. He also highlighted the importance of self-promotion, marketing, collaboration, and research to overcome challenges in the industry. However, he noted that none of this is relevant if the industry is not in business.
The establishment of the new food fairness and transparency office was recently discussed in the Dáil. Clare TD Michael McNamara has proposed several amendments to the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain Bill 2022. Although he welcomed the establishment of a regulator for the food chain, McNamara stressed the need for the new office to be given “explicit power to increase transparency”. He warned that the regulator could be a “toothless tiger” if it is reduced to merely studying and reporting data already in the public domain. He also highlighted the lack of transparency in the relationship between processors and retailers.
The Irish horticulture sector is facing significant challenges, with the industry in decline and many growers struggling to survive. The IFA has called for urgent action to establish the new food regulator office and give it real powers to address longstanding issues in the industry. While self-promotion, marketing, collaboration, and research are important, they are not enough if the industry is not in business. The new office must be given explicit power to increase transparency and address illegal and unfair trading practices at any stage of the food supply chain. Without urgent action, the Irish horticulture sector may be eroded completely.