The European Union (Unfair Trading Practices in the agricultural and food supply chain) Regulations 2021 were signed into force by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 28 April 2021. The UTP Regulations transpose into Irish law EU Directive 2019/633 on Unfair Trading Practices in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain.

We summarised the main provisions of EU Directive 2019/633 in our article available here.

When announcing the signing of the Regulations, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine said, “One of the key principles of the UTP Directive is to protect farmers, farmers’ organisations and other weaker suppliers of agricultural and food products against stronger buyers. These Regulations will help to provide that protection and are a significant step in progressing towards a more even playing field for our agricultural producers.

Key points in the UTP Regulations

  • The supply agreements covered by the UTP Regulations are those for agricultural and food products as listed in Annex I to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as well as products not listed in that Annex, but processed for use as food using products listed in that Annex;

  • It is the relative size of the food supplier and the buyer that matter – see the table regarding the annual turnover of the supplier versus the annual turnover of the buyer in our article, and in regulation 4(1) of the UTP Regulations.

  • As for timing:

    • Existing supply contracts (whether oral or written) that were concluded before 28 April 2021 must be brought into compliance with the UTP Regulation by 28 April 2022

    • New supply agreements, i.e. those concluded after 28 April 2021, must be in compliance with the UTP Regulations by 1 July 2021, which is the date of operation of the UTP Regulations

Enforcement authority - minister or ombudsman?

The enforcement authority, as an interim measure, will be the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Submissions in the public consultation suggested that the enforcement authority would be the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), or an Ombudsman, or a new independent sectoral regulator.

A public consultation was launched on 26 April 2021 on the proposed establishment of an independent Ombudsman, or a sectoral regulator, or equivalent independent authority, in line with the Programme for Government’s commitment to establish a National Food Ombudsman. This would require primary legislation, and if established, would become the enforcement authority under the UTP Regulations. Consultation on the proposed Ombudsman or sectoral regulator is now open and available here, and will be open for submissions until 26 May 2021.