MEPs roll up their sleeves on food supply chain report
An EU report on the food supply chain, previewed in this column last week, is already buoying farmers and MEPs, who are pressing the Commission to act.
The study asks the EU to outlaw unfair practices by retail giants, including late payments, arbitrary changes to contracts, last-minute order cancellations and the passing on of marketing or unsold stock costs.
“We should waste no more time on developing the proposal,” said Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness. “While legislating in this area is difficult, that is not a reason to shy away from rooting out unfair and unethical practices in the food chain,” she told the Farming Independent.
But agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan was ambiguous in his response to the proposal, saying that it would “normally fly in the face of competition issues” but was “very interesting”.
“When 20 member states feel that they must take action in the food chain, then clearly there’s a problem,” he said, referring to the fact that the UK, Spain and 18 other countries have tried to tackle unfair trading practices in law.
The Irish Farmers’ Association is pressing for an independent retail ombudsman “to assure suppliers that complaints will be investigated and abuses prosecuted”.
Mr Hogan appears to be more enthusiastic about pressing the European Investment Bank to boost financing schemes for farmers, one of the report’s other recommendations.“We need to see action sooner rather than later,” Mr Hogan said.
The EIB said it welcomes the Commission’s report and said it had a “firm commitment to help unlock new agriculture investment”, including amending EU rules to ensure money can be used up quickly.