The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and Dundee)

Europe backs toughening of the rules to protect farmers from unfair trading

Overwhelmi­ng majority of MEPs urge commission to fast-track new proposals

- Nancy Nicolson in strasbourg nnicolson@thecourier.co.uk

The European Parliament yesterday backed a toughening of the rules which are designed to protect farmers against unfair trading practices by the food supply chain.

An overwhelmi­ng majority of MEPs in Strasbourg urged the EU Commission to bring forward proposals which would result in fairer and more transparen­t trade relations between food producers, suppliers and distributo­rs.

The vote followed a report which criticised the use of agricultur­al produce such as dairy, fruit and vegetables as “loss leaders” by large-scale retailers, late payments to farmers and other trading practices which have plagued the farming industry for many years.

The resolution in the Parliament was approved by 600 votes to 48, with 24 abstention­s.

The European farmers and cooperativ­es union, Copa Cogeca welcomed the support from MEPs and said it was unacceptab­le that farmers from across Europe were being squeezed by processors and retailers.

The union’s secretary general, Pekka Pesonen, said farmers and their agricultur­al cooperativ­es needed to receive a better share of the consumer euro.

He said: “The price the farmer gets often does not even cover his production costs. Below cost selling must stop”.

Copa and Cogeca say they now expect the European Commission to “take stock” of the report and look at EU legislatio­n to address a problem that is affecting all European farmers.

“Below cost selling must stop.

PEKKA PESONEN

Scottish MEP Alyn Smith said the report recognised the existing mechanism at EU level, the Supply Chain Initiative (SCI), was a “toothless tiger”.

“Farmers’ organisati­ons are quite right to have nothing to do with it,” he said.

“With no ability to anonymousl­y complain, and no facility to impose effective and dissuasive financial sanctions, the SCI is in the retailers’ pocket.

“It is also positive that the report highlights the cross-border reach of the giant retailers, and the need for EU action to counter regulatory arbitrage.

“I still think we need to be doing a lot more at national level.

“The Groceries Code Adjudicato­r only covers the top 10 retailers and their direct relations with suppliers, completely missing out on the much more numerous farmer-processor relationsh­ips, where actions illegal under the Groceries Code still can and do happen,” he said.

“The GCA needs significan­tly more financial and human resources, and needs to be prepared to get tough with retailers: for instance I was disappoint­ed that Tesco, despite being found guilty of late payments, were not fined.

“Also, the GCA only covers very specific practices and little has been done on the much greater issue of the imbalance of bargaining power in the food supply chain.

“All this needs to change if farmers are to get fair prices from the market, and today’s vote is a crucial step forward.”

 ?? Picture: AP. ?? The European Parliament in Strasbourg where MEPs have called for more protection for farmers.
Picture: AP. The European Parliament in Strasbourg where MEPs have called for more protection for farmers.

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