EU investigating France’s version of the beef forum for competition law breaches

The European Commission has opened an investigation following roundtable livestock price talks held last summer in France.

French business daily Les Echos has reported that the investigation is into possible breaches of competition law during the crisis talks.

According to Les Echos the investigation is on the “alleged anti-competitive behaviour” at the pork, beef and dairy talks.

The Commission has stated that according to the information available, the behaviour of professional organisations such as the FNSEA, JA or Coop de France, as well as all others in the industry could constitute infringements of Article 101 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

This, it stated, is due to the conclusion of one or more agreements on prices and restrictions on imports.

All roundtable participants, which Les Echos said included unions to retail chains through the companies (co-op or private), are summoned to respond to the Commission by mid-February.

They must provide the agendas of meetings, names of participants in the discussions, the documents presented at the meetings, equity notes, records and communications that they have made, it reports.

If the investigation finds against the talks that were held, the website has stated that it can lead to very heavy fines.

A comment from the FNSEA, France’s largest farming group, to Les Echos, said it was “ready to cooperate”.

Its president, Xavier Beulin, denies having ever “announced a price which companies or distribution would have incurred”.

“My role is to seek and obtain resources to improve farmers’ incomes.”

He also told Les Echos that “the European market management tools in a crisis have virtually disappeared”.

The investigation by the European Commission could last, as often in this kind of procedure, almost two years, according to the business daily.