NFU President Meurig Raymond:

"UK: "Time is of the essence in tackling unfair practices"

NFU President Meurig Raymond has told the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain that time is of the essence in tackling unfair and abusive practices in the food supply chain.

Mr Raymond represents EU farmers and co-operatives on the forum through the European farmers’ organisation Copa-Cogeca. The forum, jointly chaired by Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan along with the Commissioners for the Internal Market, Health and Food Safety, seeks to improve relationships across the whole chain from consumers to farmers, processors and retailers.

At its latest meeting in Brussels, Mr Raymond said it was vital that the supply chain operates in a fair and transparent way.

“Farmers are the weakest link in the food supply chain and are suffering,” he said.

“They cannot endure this any longer. We need a cultural change in business ethics. We can no longer accept that those misbehaving stand to gain financially from their actions.”

“Purely voluntary schemes to curb unfair trading practices, such as we had in the UK, did not work and we ended up with legislation – the GSCOP – and a Groceries Code Adjudicator – as the tools to solve this problem.

“Copa could not agree with the other stakeholders on a purely voluntary framework to implement and enforce these principles of good practice. Experience has shown us, in various Member States that a voluntary only system does not work. That is the reason why several Member States – currently 20 of them – have or are about to adopt legislation aimed at curbing unfair trading practices and improving the functioning of the food chain. They are also looking at robust enforcement mechanisms based on an independent third party adjudicator that can receive and act upon anonymous complaints as well as applying sanctions when rules are breached.”

“I would like to stress that a competitive food supply chain in the EU can only be achieved if all of its links are sustainable in its three dimensions – economic, social and environmental – in a well-functioning Single Market. A well-functioning and non-fragmented Single Market must be the main priority if we want to improve the competitiveness of the food supply chain.”

“Farmers need to receive fair prices for their produce and work together with their cooperatives and other processing companies to produce high quality, high value, nutritious food for the consumers both in the EU and in Third Countries. This cannot be done without research, innovation and, most of all, the involvement of all links in the food chain.”

“Trade is also an area of great importance for farmers. Ever since the Russian embargo that effectively closed that market to a number of products – fruit and vegetables, milk and dairy products, and meats – from the EU, it has been necessary to develop alternative export markets. We have to recognise the efforts being put in place by Commissioner Hogan, through his various economic missions, to achieve this goal. Trade agreements can contribute to develop our business opportunities with Third Countries but they need to be balanced and fair.”

Source: NFU

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