McGuinness accuses Commission of failing producers and consumers

In response to the European Commission’s report into unfair trading practices in the food supply chain, MEP Mairead McGuinness has expressed grave disappointment that it does not see the need for legislation to tackle such practices.

The report outlines how different Member States tackle these practices, some with voluntary initiatives, others with regulatory frameworks.

Belgium, for example, has opted for a voluntary system while the UK has regulatory measures in the form of the UK Groceries Code Adjudicator.

The Commission concluded that it “does not see the added value of a specific harmonised regulatory approach at EU level at this stage”.

In an analysis of the voluntary Supply Chain Initiative launched in 2013, the Commission acknowledges that the initiative is not without fault, a view shared by McGuinness.

“The Commission’s report says it is still too early to assess its contribution in stamping out unfair trading practices.

However, the question is, how long must we wait for real and effective action at EU level.

“Damage to producers and suppliers continues to be inflicted because of unfair trading practices and the inability of smaller suppliers to counter the incredible power of the major multiples.”

The Commission’s decision comes in the wake of last week’s report by the UK Groceries Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon, on Tesco’s treatment of its suppliers.

According to McGuinness, the shocking findings of that report show that a resolution on the issue of unfair trading practices in the food supply chain has never been so pressing.

Last year, members of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee unanimously voted on a report by McGuinness calling for regulatory action at EU level to tackle such practices.

“Primary producers are amongst the most vulnerable in the food supply chain.”

We need to remind all stakeholders in the food supply chain that without farmers there would be no food supply chain to begin with.

The Fine Gael MEP welcomed the introduction of a significant overhaul of retail rules in Ireland which was signed into law earlier this week by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton.

McGuinness said that these new rules again reaffirm the need for action to clamp down on unfair trading practices from farmer to retailer.

“I’m calling on Commissioner Hogan to redouble his efforts to convince his Commission colleagues of the need for stronger EU action.”

According to the report, the governing of unfair trading practices sits with the individual Member States and it also said that Member States should share information between each other.

The Commission’s report also found that the few remaining Member States without unfair trading practices legislation could benefit from following their example and considering at least a national voluntary platform.

It also found that that the Supply Chain Initiative has already accomplished some achievements but there is still room for improvement.

In order to increase the initiative’s credibility and effectiveness in tackling unfair trading practices, the Commission proposes a discussion with the relevant stakeholders on how to improve the initiative under the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain.