Legal work remains “ongoing” on the appointment of a National Food Ombudsman more than six months after the watchdog authority was agreed in the programme for Government.
The office will be responsible for examining the chain of food production, prices paid to farmers and will have the power to enforce the EU’s Unfair Trading Practices Directive which is set to become law in Ireland in May this year.
In a statement to the Farming Independent a spokesperson for Department of Agriculture said: “The commitment in the programme for Government provides for a new authority, a National Food Ombudsman, to implement the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive and to have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland.
“Work is ongoing to examine the legal requirements to establish this authority and to consider any further functions which may be assigned to it.
“With regard to the timeline for appointment and details of the type of candidate to be considered, until the precise functions for a food ombudsman or equivalent have been clearly defined legally, it is not possible to give details on what qualifications and expertise will be required for the role,” the statement concluded.
Meanwhile, farm organisations are urging the Department to ensure that the selected candidate is “independent” of any links to the agricultural sector on the island.
ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham said: “ICSA is annoyed that little detail has emerged on the new Food Ombudsman, notwithstanding the fact provision was made for it in the recent budget.
“We need an ombudsman with power to do what needs to be done if irregularities are found. It is absolutely vital that the ombudsman is independent.
“That means they must be totally independent of any group or any sector. No farmer, or farm organisation for that matter, is going to have any faith in any ombudsman unless the individual is totally independent,” Mr Graham said.
Last October’s Budget 2021 included an initial provision of €1 million to assist with start-up costs for the new authority.
It is expected that the establishment of the National Food Ombudsman office will be up for discussion at the next sitting of the Beef Taskforce.