Copa-Cogeca calls for EU legislation to stamp out unfair and abusive practices in the food chain in panel debate

Copa-Cogeca called for EU legislation to be introduced to stamp out abusive and Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) in the food chain at a panel debate hosted by MEP Sofia Ribeiro in the European Parliament, warning below cost selling has to stop.

The panel included high-level speakers from the European Commission, European Parliament, Governments, Copa-Cogeca and the retail sector to debate how to ensure fairness in the food supply chain.

Speaking at the event, Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen warned “Almost a year ago, the EU Commission published a Communication on Unfair Trading Practices but failed to assume its responsibilities – that is propose an EU wide approach to tackle this problem. Instead Member States are encouraged to follow their own approaches, leading to fragmentation and different policies from market to market. Large retailers have admitted to breaching codes and are under investigation. So how can a purely voluntary system be effective in this environment and deal with the unfair trading practices that do not provide farmers or cooperatives with the conditions that they urgently need to make their complaints anonymously and reduce the fear that they have of retaliatory action by their clients. The absence of enforcement of the rules by an independent third-party authority capable of applying sanctions in case of non-compliance is a key problem of any voluntary system. With the current voluntary system, now called the ‘Supply Chain Initiative.’which has existed for almost two years now, nothing has really changed. We have not seen yet sufficient commitment or real changes occurring in downstream business relations. A purely voluntary approach is simply not enough. What we need are voluntary codes of practice backed by legislation to oversee them.

Chairman of Copa-Cogecas Working Party and President of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) added “Ireland like several Member States is turning to address issues of unfair trading practices but still it does not go far enough. There is no ban on below cost selling and no ombudsman to ensure rules are enforced. Is it fair for farmers to see carrots and vegetables promoted at 5-10 cents/kg? The squeeze that is put on farmers returns in a period when input costs are escalating is unacceptable. It should be about giving a fair return to the farmer. We are looking for European legislation that will enforce fairness not just in a Member’s home market but across all Member States. The agri-food sector will be the driver for sustainable growth in the future but only if we have fairness and transparency in food supply chains. We urge the Commission to come forward with a legislative approach to support the operation of codes of good practice. Nothing else is acceptable”

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