Farmers need legal protection against unfair trading practices, says MEP

Scotland’s farmers gained significant support yesterday as Alyn Smith MEP won strong backing from Agriculture MEPs for tough legislative action against Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs).

During the debate on Mairead McGuinness’ draft report on UTPs in the food supply chain (of which Alyn is Shadow Rapporteur), MEPs agreed that voluntary initiatives have proven inadequate in stamping out late payments, listing fees, and retroactive changes to contracts. The message from the Parliament’s cross-party Agriculture Committee was clear: legislative action by Member States and the Commission is now required.

Alyn, Scotland’s only representative on the committee, said:

“Scottish farmers know all about unfair trading practices from processors and retailers, from First Milk delaying payments to 1000 farmers by a fortnight while simultaneously increasing capital levy contributions, to Tesco advertising New Zealand lamb as Scottish.
These are especially difficult to take while simultaneously having to deal with poor weather, the new CAP and volatility of prices.

“For far too long the European Commission has stuck its head in the sand on this issue: it has proved far too willing to talk rather than to take action. Enough is enough.

“The UK’s Groceries Code Adjudicator is a toothless tiger, one that either needs to gain teeth – my preference – or be shut down. It’s not much of an enforcement body if organisations can bypass the Code merely by being a food manufacturer as opposed to a retailer, and
their own survey showed that 70% of farmers still have issues with the Code despite the existence of the GCA.

“We need legislative action at European level to ensure that minimum standards of good practice are observed by buyers in all Member States, and that the worst UTPs are stamped out across Europe. That was the overwhelming view of the committee today, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to take this report forward.”

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