‘It’s paramount that relations in the food supply chain are balanced’

It is paramount that relations among all actors of the food supply chain are balanced, according to the Council of the European Union.

The Council made the statement this week as it adopted conclusions on strengthening farmers’ position in the food supply chain and tackling unfair trading practices.

It considers the sustainability of the food supply chain to be of strategic importance for the European Union and its proper functioning essential for the benefit of European consumers and farmers.

In order to achieve a well-functioning food supply chain as well as economic growth and employment, it is paramount that relations among all actors of the chain are balanced, that added value is fairly distributed among them and that consumers can make their choices on an informed basis, it said.

In its conclusions, the Council expressed its concerns that although the situation varies across the EU, farmers remain the most vulnerable link in the food supply chain despite multiple efforts to change this, and that this fact is especially obvious in times of crisis in the agricultural markets.

Council noted that in order to maintain and improve the viability of farms, their competitiveness and their resilience, it is necessary to explore risk management tools at EU level, complementary to and coordinated with Member States national strategies, including their application at regional level.

Tackling Unfair Trading Practices

The Council expressed concern that although the unfair trading practices (UTPs) situation varies across Member States, due to their weaker bargaining position farmers are often subject to practices that grossly deviate from good commercial conduct and are contrary to good faith and fair dealing.

It underlined the importance of a level-playing field for all actors in the food supply chain across the EU that could be achieved by a common legislative framework on UTPs.

It called on the Commission to undertake, in a timely manner, an impact assessment with a view to proposing an EU legislative framework or other, non-legislative measures to address UTPs in line with these conclusions, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity and safeguarding well-functioning national systems as well as already existing national statutory protection.

Any EU framework should be complementary to existing voluntary initiatives, both at EU and Member States’ level it said.

The committee committed itself to assessing, in the first half of 2018 and on the basis of a report from the
Commission, progress made regarding fighting UTPs and strengthening the farmers’ position in the food supply chain.

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has welcomed the agreement by the Council of Agriculture Ministers to Council Conclusions on the strengthening of farmers’ position in the food supply chain, and on tackling unfair trading practices.

The Minister said that in broad terms he welcomed the provisions contained in the draft conclusions.

“I think the Presidency has done a good job of reflecting Member States’ concerns in relation to tackling unfair trading practices, where the need for an EU legislative framework proved to be one of the more contentious items during the discussions.

“I look forward to the Commission now acting on these Conclusions in the context of its future efforts to strengthen the position of the farmer in the food supply chain.”