The European Commission has announced that it has opened infringement procedures against 12 member states for failing to transpose EU rules banning unfair trading practices (UTPs) in the agri-food sector.

The directive on UTPs in the agriculture and food supply chain, adopted in April 2019, is aimed at the “protection of all European farmers, as well as small and mid-range suppliers” against 16 specific UTPs from larger buyers in the food supply chain.

The directive covers agricultural and food products traded in the supply chain, banning for the first time at the EU level such UTPs imposed unilaterally by one-trading partner on another.

Ireland was not one of the offending countries.

The commission has sent letters of formal notice to: Austria; Belgium; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Estonia; France; Italy; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Slovenia; and Spain, requesting them to adopt and notify the relevant measures.

These member states now have two months to reply.

The deadline for transposing the directive into national legislation was May 1, 2021. As of yesterday (Tuesday, July 27) all other member states, including Ireland, have notified the commission that they have adopted all necessary measures for transposing the directive, thus declaring the process complete.

The 16 UTPs to be banned include (among others): late payments and last-minute order cancellations for perishable food products; unilateral or retroactive changes to contracts; forcing the suppliers to pay for wasted products; and refusing written contracts.

Farmers and small and medium-sized suppliers, as well as the organisations representing them, will have the possibility to file complaints against such practices from their buyers.

Member states should put in place designated national authorities that will handle the complaints. Confidentiality is protected under these rules to avoid any possible retaliation from buyers.