EU moves to improve fairness in food supply chain

21 August 2017

The European Commission (EC) has launched a wide public consultation on how to improve fairness in the EU’s food supply chain.

The EC said there had been indications that the added value in the food supply chain was not being adequately distributed across all levels of the chain because of the differences in bargaining power between smaller businesses and their economically stronger commercial partners.

Phil Hogan, agriculture and rural development commissioner, said producers across all agricultural sectors in the EU would be invited to point out the flaws and unfair practices which leave them at a disadvantage.

“Farmers are the first link in the chain and without them, there would not be food to process, sell and consume,” he said.

“However, we notice that they often remain the weakest link and it is to address the shortcomings in the food supply chain that we are leading the way to act, in accordance with the Commission’s longstanding position to stand by European farmers.” 

The 12-week online consultation follows the EC’s publication of an Inception Impact Assessment last month, which set out a series of objectives and policy options for enhancing the functioning of the EU food supply chain—which employs over 44m people.

John Comer, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, called on respondents to advocate for a move towards direct EU supervision of the supply chain.

He said unfair trading practices had systematically enriched retail and processing corporations for decades—often at the “ruinous expense” of farmers and primary food producers.

“Direct supervision might very well require legislation but it would finally face up to the fact that the offending corporations were very often beyond the control of one member state,” he said.

“This has seen those working the hardest and investing the most getting the least, while those who did least got the bulk of the final price through sheer bullying and throwing their commercial clout around—without any fear of interference by the EU or anyone else.

“We are now being presented with an opportunity to rectify this unfairness and it is absolutely crucial that we seize it.” 

The EC said the consultation has been designed to build on findings of the Agricultural Market Task Force (AMTF), which was established by Hogan in January 2016.

As reported by SM, the AMTF made a number of recommendations on how the EC could address the imbalance of power in the supply chain. These included increased transparency, legislation and enforcement to combat unfair trading practices, financial support for farmers and improved risk management tools.

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