Consensus building for EU fair food chain legislation
The European Parliament’s agriculture committee and industry stakeholders discussed the findings of the agricultural markets task force set up by the European Commission to report on commercial relations in the food chain.
The task force published its report last November, including recommendations for EU legislation to establish adjudicators to police the food industry and mandatory price reporting at all levels along the supply chain to reveal how much farmers, processors and retailers capture of the value added to food products.
Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said that support has been growing to implement the recommendations through European legislation and “help farmers get a fair deal for their products”, including at the latest Council of EU agriculture ministers.
The European Parliament had already adopted a resolution in favour of such legislation prior to the task force’s report and MEPs representing a broad range of political groups supported its recommendations.
It won’t cost anything to the European budget
Michel Dantin, who spoke for the majority EPP group in the European Parliament, said the task force’s recommendations should be implemented both in the short term and in preparation for the next CAP after 2020, welcoming the fact that “it won’t cost anything to the European budget”.
Martin Merrild, president of the European umbrella farmers’ organisation COPA-COGECA, said that action was needed as the share of food value returned to farmers declined constantly. Farmers received only 21% of food value in 2011, compared with 28% for processors and 51% for retailers, he said, citing Europea Commission figures.
“The largest retailer has a turnover greater than the 10 largest farmer co-ops in Europe” put together, Merrild added, supporting recommendations to give more power to farmers’ producer organisations and co-ops.
Task force member Helfried Giesen, retired chief executive of the German meat processing co-op Westfleisch SCE, said the report suggested relaxing competition rules for such farmers’ groups to “allow them to work together on shared pricing initiatives or shared storage facilities”.
IFA president Joe Healy supported this, arguing that only 110 buying desks centralise nearly all food purchases for retailers in the EU, while millions of farmers are left on their own.
He also supported calls for stricter EU legislation on unfair trading practices with the Irish example. While new grocery regulations tightened rules on payments terms and marketing charges for food products here last year, “the absence of a ban on below-cost selling was a negative,” Healy said.
The money is there, get it back to the primary producers
Dissenting voices included a representative for the retail industry, who saw no need for additional regulation and said her members were ready to co-operate with farmers on greater price transparency and better trading terms on a voluntary basis. She also dismissed the share of value given by Merrild as “wrong”.
British MEP John Stuart Agnew criticised the proposed legislation, saying commercial law was a member state prerogative where the EU should not intervene.
On the contrary, Irish MEP Luke Ming Flanagan said European institutions should now adopt legislation. “It’s our job,” he said. “The money is there, get it back to the primary producers.”