Statutory guidelines will create fairer playing field for grocery sector – DEERING

22nd November, 2013

Carlow Fine Gael, Pat Deering, has said that the introduction of statutory regulations will create a fairer playing field in the grocery sector. Deputy Deering was speaking this week after the Minister of State for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock TD, announced that new provisions in the Consumer and Competition Bill will introduce statutory regulations to ensure fair contracts and fair trading conditions from suppliers and retailers for producers and processors.

“The farming and food sectors play a huge role in the Irish economy, particularly in rural communities.  The Irish food and grocery market had a total estimated worth of €7.1 billion in 2011.  It is very welcome that we are bringing forward a statutory code to address the imbalance of power in the supermarket-supplier-producer relationship.

“The introduction of a statutory code of conduct is supported by the Irish Farmers Association, RGDATA and Food and Drinks Industry Ireland. I am a member of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee which  recommends that SMEs should be given support towards costs that may arise from a statutory code, as many small businesses would not have the resources to deal with such legal issues.

“Ensuring a balance in the relationship between the various players in the grocery goods area is extremely important to everyone. The code of conduct will help to deal with pricing and the impact on primary and secondary suppliers, support for local produce and labelling. There has been a huge strain in the relationship between suppliers and retailers, and I hope this code will go some way in addressing that.

“It is well known that large multiples have a huge dominance and unfair advantage over suppliers in the agricultural area in particular. Up to now, producers have had no recourse if they felt they were being treated unfairly by large retailers, but now large suppliers and supermarkets will have to conform to an agreed set of minimum standards of trading.

“I believe the new Consumer Protection and Competition Bill is vital to provide for the amalgamation of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency. It is likely that the regulations for the grocery sector will be statutory with associated sanctions, rather than a voluntary code of conduct. I agree with this approach.”