Farm Commissioner Designate Phil Hogan has told members of the European Parliament that he will take a very close interest in the trading practises followed by Europe’s leading food retailers over the coming years.

Responding to a question from Mairead McGuinness MEP during this morning’s ‘hearing’ process in Brussels, he added: “I am very aware of the farmers are weak sellers within the agri food chain. The balance of power within this system currently lies with the retailers. The previous Commission introduced voluntary measures as a means of addressing these matters. However, if this strategy is not seen to be working, then I am open to the possibility of introducing relevant enforcement legislation.”

Responding to a question posed by the Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson Mr Hogan committed to defending the EU’s agri budget, to the extent that this is possible.

He added: “The removal of milk quotas will open up tremendous opportunities for the dairy sector over the coming years. And, naturally, I will do my utmost to ensure that this potential is realised to the full.

Commenting on the current EU food import ban that has been introduced by Russia, the Commissioner designate said that he would use of all the market support measures at his disposal to ensure that milk producer incomes are protected.

He continued:“There must be an acceptable level of intervention and protection offered against income volatility for dairy farmers post the abolition of quotas.

“One of my core objectives moving forward will be that of seeking a simplification of the CAP measures that are enacted throughout Europe. But this will not be a ‘simple’ process. Over the next twelve months a comprehensive review of the new support arrangements, and specifically their impact at national level, will be undertaken. Once this information is available, I can assess how best to implement a CAP simplification process.”