The new agri-food regulator will edge closer to establishment as Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue introduces the second stage debate on the agri-food supply chain bill in Dáil Éireann on Thursday 19 January.

The bill provides for the establishment of a new independent statutory body, An Rialálaí Agraibhia, or agri-food regulator, which will promote fairness and transparency in the agricultural and food supply chain.

The regulator will have powers to levy fines of up to €10m on buyers, including retailers, food producers and processors, who engage in unfair trading practices with farmers and other suppliers.

The office will have powers to investigate breaches such as late payments to suppliers, misuse of trade secrets, commercial retaliation and unilateral contract changes.

Minister McConalogue said: “I am delighted that the agri-food supply chain bill has now reached this second stage of the legislative process.

“This bill will ensure that there is protection for farmers, fishers, growers and small businesses operating in the agri-food sector against unfair trading practices, and will bring greater transparency to the supply chain by carrying out price and market analysis and reporting.”

The minister added that he hopes the enactment of this bill can be progressed without undue delay and this “much-needed” regulator can be established.

“I want this office to be a strong advocate for our primary producers - the farmers, fishers and food producers of Ireland. The office will bring further transparency to all stages of the supply chain.

“In parallel with this legislation, my Department is working to conclude the process for the appointment to the role of CEO for the new office, following a recent open competitive process, and an announcement on this will be made in due course.

“My Department will also engage with State Boards (part of the Public Appointments Service) to begin the process for selection of the board of the new office,” he said.