Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on agriculture Matt Carthy has said delays with the establishment of a food ombudsman and meat regulator has effectively given processors a transition period to continue exploiting farmers.
The Cavan/Monaghan TD was speaking in response to a parliamentary question which indicated staffing levels at the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP)Unit within the Department of Agriculture had reduced from a full-time equivalent of three to two staff members since it was created in May.
Minister McConalogue took the most minimalist approach available to him
The response also revealed that the enforcement authority has received no complaints and has spent none of its €1m allocation, other than on salaries.
Carthy commented: “By implementing the UTP through statutory instrument rather than legislation, Minister McConalogue took the most minimalist approach available to him.
“At that time, a unit with three members of staff was created in the Department of Agriculture, with assurance on a head and others being assigned.
“The Minister also assured us at the time that he hoped legislation would be finalised by the end of the year,” he said. “This week, it has been revealed that the same unit now has just two members of staff with a promise of further resources.
This unit has apparently not received a single complaint, which is not surprising
“The updated Autumn Legislative Agenda also indicates that legislation to establish a full enforcement authority is at an incredibly early stage, with no specifics in terms of timeframe.
“One million euro was budgeted for this office for this year, yet the unit in the Department has expended no money other than on salaries.
“This unit has apparently not received a single complaint, which is not surprising given that they haven’t even embarked on an information campaign,” he criticised.
“The only excuse for delay is a lack of political will. The Minister has effectively given processors a transition period to continue exploiting farmers.
“Sinn Féin remains committed to the establishment of an independent meat regulator to tackle unfair trading practices and cartel-like practices in the sector,” added Carthy.