Retailers and processors could receive fines of up to €10m from the new agri food regulator should they be found to be carrying out unfair trading practices with suppliers, the Irish Farmers Journal understands.
The regulator is expected to bring greater transparency to the agricultural and food supply chain by carrying out analysis and regularly publishing reports on price and market data.
It will also prepare and publish reports on contingency issues, on its own initiative or at the request of the Minister for Agriculture.
It will also enhance the understanding of, compliance with, and enforcement of agri-food unfair trading law, including being designated as the national enforcement authority for the unfair trading practices directive.
The regulator is expected to have the power to investigate suspected breaches, promote alternative dispute resolution procedures between suppliers and buyers and refer cases to the Director of Public Prosecutions where the regulator believes that an indictable offence has been committed.
It is understood that it also includes full enforcement powers for the regulator to collect any information, including financial information, relating to any unfair trading practice that is under investigation.
However, it is not possible to give sweeping powers to the regulator to confiscate information not related to an unfair trading practice, such as a collaboration on price, which instead would fall under the competence of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).
But, if in the course of an investigation of an unfair trading practice, the regulator suspects that there may be a suspicion of non-compliance with competition law the regulator can and should provide that information to the CCPC.
Cost of set up
Four million euro has been allocated next year for the establishment of the regulator, as was announced in Budget 2023.
This is to provide for the initial staffing of the regulator, set-up costs and premises. Budgetary requirements will be monitored on an ongoing basis in consultation with the Department of Expenditure and Reform.