The food ombudsman’s office should be granted stronger powers to investigate alleged unfair practices in agri-food supply chain and afford those who file complaints absolute confidentiality, the joint Oireachtas committee on agriculture has told Government.

TDs and senators who sit on the committee have also sought to increase twentyfold the maximum fine that can be levied against those found to have breached the fair trading rules.

The general scheme of the establishing bill outlined by Government put a maximum figure of €500,000 on the fine that operators could incur for breaches.

The committee has sought to up this to €10m or 10% of the business’s global turnover, whichever figure is greater.

The body is to be called the Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agri-Food Supply Chain under the draft bill put forward by Minister McConalogue. The Oireachtas committee has proposed naming the office as the National Food Regulator.


It was recommended that, in addition to businesses buying farm goods being required to provide market and price information to the office for publication, that the office would be entitled to access commercially sensitive information which would not be made public to aid in its investigations into these companies’ dealings.

Doing so, the committee said, would allow the office to better detect operators engaging in cartel-like behaviour in the agri-food sector.

The random inspection of both suppliers and buyers to ensure compliance with trading rules was also recommended, as was expanding the mandate of the office to cover business-consumer relations, rather than just the business-business relations covered in the current draft of the bill.


The office is to be established later this year to enforce unfair trading practice (UTP) rules introduced by the EU.

It will also analyse price information and report on its findings of agri-food commodity price trends.

Government hopes that the office’s activities will strengthen the position of farmers in the supply chain and recruitment is currently underway to find the individual who will head up the office's operations.

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