Supermarkets have a disproportionate leverage over primary producers of food, which must be addressed, European Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has said.

Speaking at the FSAI Safeguarding The Food Chain conference in Dublin Castle on Friday, Commissioner Hogan said supermarkets now enjoy “super power” due to the twin effect of increased globalisation and a high level of concentration within Europe.

“The imbalance of bargaining power between price-setters and price-takers is stark,” he highlighted. “Leading to a situation where there is a real fear factor for farmers of commercial retaliation, late payments and other headaches.”

Fear factor

Commissioner Hogan said that the farmers’ share of what EU consumers spend on food is being continuously squeezed, due to the “clear imbalance of power between producers and other links of the food supply chain”.

He warned that regulators and policymakers can never afford to lose sight of one fact: without the primary producer, there is no food supply chain.

“And primary producers can only do their vital work if they receive a fair buck for their work,” he added.

“A well-functioning food supply chain is essential for our society. Farming, food processing, retail and food service represent over 44m jobs in 14m businesses across the EU,” he said.

“This is one of our biggest employment sectors. And our consumers can only be guaranteed a reliable food supply if farmers are guaranteed a reliable income and a fair share of the pie.”

Tackling unfair trading practices

Commissioner Hogan referred to planned moves to tackle unfair trading practices, and said the Commission is now moving to the next step of drafting a legislative proposal.

“It is my sincere hope that all the stakeholders who recognise the problem will also proactively support the potential solution.”

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