Farmers to benefit as EU tackles data 'black holes' in the food supply chain

File photo
File photo

The EU is set to equip farmers with more market data to help them negotiate better prices and contract terms with processors and retailers.

A new law on "market transparency", to be tabled by the European Commission in April, aims to provide more up to date and accurate data on products - including prices, costs and stocks, especially at processor and retailer level.

While farm gate and consumer prices are widely available, the EU says there are information "black holes" in the middle of the food supply chain, and particularly in the meat, milk, and fruit and vegetable markets.

The EU already has a milk market observatory and a food price monitoring system but the data is mainly used by EU officials, and not farmers.

The new rules would provide more accurate information more frequently, and break data down not only by product or sector but even by individual cuts of meat.

The success of the move will depend on rural broadband coverage and on whether the Commission can provide adequate training for farmers on how to use the data.

But the recent Beef Plan movement in Ireland wants to prevent factories accessing the livestock data farmers send in to the Department of Agriculture through AIMS. The movement says factories currently hold all the power and fix beef prices, which they say eats into any benefits they might get from the CAP.

EU officials see the proposal as a third step in a bid to give farmers more bargaining power. It follows last year's rule changes allowing for producer cooperation, and a ban on unfair practices such as late payments and last-minute order cancellations.

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MEPs will today give their final sign off on the unfair trading practices law, which was tentatively agreed with EU governments last year.

They managed to extend the rules to all suppliers and buyers, regardless of size, and to agricultural products other than food.

They also added to the list of unfair trading practices by including a 60-day payment deadline for orders of non-perishable goods, a 60-day notice period for cancelling an order of perishable goods and a ban on below-cost sales by retailers, unless agreed in advance.

The idea is for all EU countries to apply a set of minimum standards, leaving individual countries to bring in stricter rules if they want. EU countries would set up a watchdog that can impose sanctions on producers or retailers that break the rules.

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