Legislation needs to be introduced at EU level to combat unfair practices in the food chain says Copa & Cogeca, the European farmers and farm cooperatives organisations.
Speaking ahead of today’s informal meeting of EU farm ministers in Bratislava, Copa & Cogeca secretary-general, Pekka Pesonen, said legislation is needed to ensure a fair return for producers.
“Farmers’ incomes across Europe are constantly being squeezed and the price the farmer gets often does not even cover his production costs,” he said.
“We need a fair, transparent and functioning food supply chain, which we believe would be good for farmers, processors and retailers and, above all, for consumers. It is the only way to ensure a sustainable farming sector”.
The Copa & Cogeca case is that “enforced contracts” should be introduced between producers, processors and retailers to ensure farmers are given a fair price for their produce and are paid on time.
“Voluntary agreements alone do not work,” said Mr Pesonen. “Unfair trading practices can only be curbed by a combination of voluntary codes backed by legislation and supported by a robust enforcement system so that operators are fined when they break EU law, with an ombudsman imposing fines when codes of good practice are broken.”
While acknowledging that different initiatives are currently in place at member state level, the two organisations want new rules that can be enforced at EU level to control large retailers who are operating in an increasingly pan-European market. They also believe that good regulation in one country will not prevent abuse taking place across borders.
“Spain has recently introduced legislation that works well and is a good model for the EU to build on,” said Mr Pesonen. “The European Commission knows there’s a problem and needs to come up with a proposal. We consequently urge ministers to act now.”
The farm ministers’ meeting is being held in Bratislava under the current Slovak presidency of the EU with the declared aim of strengthening farmers positioning in the food chain and combating unfair trading practices.