The EU must better coordinate member states’ efforts to tackle unfair trading practices (UTPs), many members of the Agriculture Committee said in a debate on Tuesday.

The committee also called on the Commission to come up with a legislative proposal that would introduce more balance into the food supply chain and clamp down on practices that have negative consequences for EU farmers

They welcomed the voluntary Supply Chain Initiative as a step in the right direction but said this alone will not solve the problem.

“The relationship producers have with retailers, with food processors, is fundamental to whether they survive in farming and make a decent income or not.

“There have been a range of unfair practices which farmers have been victims of because they are the least powerful in the food supply chain,” said rapporteur of the opinion Mairead McGuinness during the debate.

“We have this Supply Chain Initiative, which is a voluntary effort. I welcome the fact that it is there (…) the question is, is it effective, is it sufficient and will it deliver the results that we need,” Ms McGuinness said.

In the draft opinion she calls for “framework legislation at EU level” that is “essential to tackle UTPs and to address their negative consequences for farmers.”

She noted that this approach “might cause the most debate,” but stressed that “we have many different ideas in member states” and “perhaps we need more coordination on the EU level.”

“We only arrived at this place because some of us have worked hard over a long number of years to try and get this issue into a sharp focus. So let us hold that momentum and focus sharply on it,” she said.

Next steps

The debate will feed into Parliament’s response to the Commission’s communication from July 2014 on ways to tackle UTPs in the EU food supply chain.

The Agriculture Committee will vote its opinion on the matter in November and forward it then to the lead Internal Market Committee, which is expected to vote on the text in December or early next year.