The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD, today reminded suppliers and buyers of agricultural and food products of their legal rights and obligations under the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Regulations introduced earlier this year.
One of the key principles of the UTP Regulations is to protect farmers, farmers’ organisations and other weaker suppliers in the agricultural and food supply chain against stronger buyers. The Regulations, which transpose an EU Directive on UTPs into Irish law, aim to improve the position of farmers and small and medium sized businesses by prohibiting specific unfair trading practices.
The Minister said “I am taking this opportunity to remind buyers that, from 28th April 2022, all supply agreements for agri-food products must be in full compliance with the provisions of the UTP Regulations. I am therefore calling on buyers across the food supply chain to be aware of, and understand, their legal obligations, and to use the next six months to ensure that all supply agreements are UTP compliant”.
To oversee compliance with the Regulations, the Minister has established the Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority which has the power to initiate and conduct investigations on its own initiative or on the basis of a complaint.
The Minister continued “The Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority has been established as an interim measure within my Department pending the finalisation of primary legislation to establish a new Office of National Food Ombudsman or equivalent Office. I fully support the Authority’s awareness-raising campaign and engagement with stakeholders in the agricultural and food products supply chain. The Authority is available to assist both buyers and suppliers to understand their respective obligations and rights under the UTP Regulations.”
“I would particularly encourage suppliers to contact the Authority if they feel they have been subject to an unfair trading practice in any recent new agreements”.
Note for editors
The Minister signed S.I. No. 198/2021 - European Union (Unfair Trading Practices in the agricultural and food supply chain) Regulations 2021 (irishstatutebook.ie) on April 28th 2021.
These Regulations gave effect to the provisions of The Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/633 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 in relation to business-to-business relationships in the agriculture and food supply chain
The Regulations prohibit 16 unfair trading practices (UTPs) – 10 (black) UTPs which are prohibited in all circumstances and a further 6 (grey) UTPs which are prohibited unless the parties agree clearly and unambiguously beforehand. These UTPs are summarised here: Leaflet DL Final.pdf (utp.gov.ie)
The Regulations afford protection for any supplier of agricultural and food products with a turnover of up to €350 million subject to the supplier’s turnover being lower than the buyer’s turnover within stated categories. The Regulations provide protection for five graduated levels of supplier turnover categories relative to the buyer up to the €350 million turnover limit.
Under the Regulations, a supplier is defined as an agricultural producer or any natural or legal person who sells agricultural and food products. A buyer is defined as any natural or legal person or any public authority who buys agricultural and food products. The Regulations apply only to business-to-business relationships and do not cover sales to consumers.
The UTP Regulations have been applicable since 1st July 2021 to supply agreements established since 28th April 2021 and, from 28th April 2022, all supply agreements, including those that were in place before 28th April 2021, must be in compliance with the Regulations.
The Enforcement Authority has established a dedicated website – www.utp.gov.ie – which contains useful resource materials, contact details including how suppliers can make a complaint.
Programme for Government commitment to establish a National Food Ombudsman
The Programme for Government includes a commitment to:
‘Ensure fairness, equity, and transparency in the food chain by establishing a new authority called the National Food Ombudsman (NFO) to enforce the Unfair Trading Practices Directive. This new authority will enforce EU-wide rules on prohibited unfair trading practices in the food supply chain and will have powers to enforce this Directive, penalising those who breach regulations. The NFO will have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland.’
Primary legislation is required to establish the new Office and to provide for functions that go beyond the powers laid down in the UTP Directive. This legislation is being prepared as a priority matter.