MEPs vote to stop ‘big players’ in the food supply chain

A new set of draft rules that aim to improve the protection of farmers against Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) were approved by the EU’s Agriculture Committee last night (Monday, October 1).

It is anticipated that the proposed new rules will aim to support food producers against UTPs imposed by “big players” in the food industry.

The draft laws have been broadened by the MEPs to include all actors in the food supply chain – not just small to medium-sized producers and big buyers.

A number of additional UTPs have now been blacklisted in the draft laws including:
  • Payments made later than 30 days for perishable agricultural and food products and later than 60 days for non-perishable products;
  • Unilateral cancellation of an order of perishable products in less than 60 days from the agreed delivery date;
  • When a buyer refuses to sign a written contract with the supplier;
  • When a buyer shares or misuses confidential information, relating to the supply agreement.

The new draft laws aim to cover trade of agricultural products and ancillary services, on top of foodstuffs.

No sales below cost

The terms of a supply agreement must never result from the supplier’s economic dependence on the buyer, MEPs say.

They also insist that, unless pre-agreed, the buyer should not sell products below the purchase price and then ask the supplier (the farmer) to bridge the gap.

The committee has also said that terms of a supply agreement must never result from the supplier’s economic dependence on the buyer.

MEPs propose to allow food producers to lodge complaints where they are established, even if UTPs occurred elsewhere in the EU.

Clear Complaints Procedure

To make life easier for food producers, MEPs propose to allow them to lodge complaints there they are established, even if UTPs occurred elsewhere in the EU.

It is understood that national enforcement authorities will also be appointed to deal with complaints and, following an investigation, imposing sanctions.

Commenting on the new draft laws, a spokesperson for the Agriculture Committee has said: “In this battle of David versus Goliath, we are arming the weakest in the food supply chain to ensure fairness and social rights.

Small producers, workers and consumers will soon stop suffering the consequences of unfair trade practices imposed by big players in the food supply chain.

The draft laws, which were approved in the Agriculture Committee by 38 votes in favour to four votes against, with two abstentions, will now be submitted to the plenary to seek MEPs’ green light for negotiations with EU ministers.