Europe’s political framework needs to address the power of supermarkets according to Gerd Sonnleitner, UN Goodwill Ambassador for the 2014 FAO International Year of Family Farming.

He also said he hopes the new EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan will be able to do something about the power of supermarkets. “We hope very much the new EU Commissioner for Agriculture will address this problem. I think he is a strong man.”

Speaking at the Teagasc and IFA International Family Farming Conference, he said that as well as supermarkets power the Russian embargo is a political decision and Europe needs political answers to overcome crises, but warned that the current tools available under the CAP are not enough to deal with fluctuations and imbalances in trade and prices.

“Fluctuations and imbalances in the food chain have to be addressed. We need effective crisis management. To me, is it not clear yet if the toolbox of the CAP for this is sufficient.”

As well as the power of supermarkets he also said that the most severely-affected farmers have to be compensated and new markets must be found for European produce. Reliable political framework is needed in developing countries, he said.

IFA President Eddie Downey said the family farm is not just central to Ireland, but is key to farming all over the world. IFA Economist Rowena Dwyer also said that the balance of power in the food supply chain is a massive challenge.

She also said that farmers’ exposure to world market prices is something they didn’t have to deal with as much 20 years ago.

Another challenge, she said, is the latest CAP reform and the impact it will have. “I have significant concerns about the cut in payments in certain low-income sectors.

She also said that Ireland needs to lead on CAP reform as other countries are just sitting back.

In relation to trade deals, she said they have to be dealt with, but there must be a balanced approach to trade deals.