Mairead McGuinness MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament has said discussions in the European Parliament on legislation to stop unfair trading practices (UTPs) in the food supply chain will intensify this week, with some members of Parliament demanding more debate and discussion about the proposal with other MEPs urging that there be no delay in the process.
At stake is whether the Parliament will give the green light to representatives of the agri committee to proceed with negotiations with the Commission and Council on the legislation or refer the draft report on the issue back to Parliament for debate and possible amendment.
McGuinness who has led on the need for action to address UTPs in the food supply chain said some colleagues believe it’s better to have a full debate on the legislation in Parliament while others may be using a procedural issue to delay and weaken the legislation.
On October 1st the Parliament’s Agriculture committee voted through amendments to the legislation, with proposals from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, Environment, Food Safety and Public Health and Development Committees taken on board.
The Agriculture Committee supported the proposal to go directly to negotiations with Council and Commission, and this is provided for in the rules of procedure without further debate.
Commenting on the draft report, McGuinness said the scope of the legislation has been broadened to include all suppliers and buyers in the food supply chain, reflecting the interdependency in the chain and the view that regardless of size, all suppliers are susceptible to UTPs.
“Today 20 Member States have legislation in place to tackle imbalances in the food chain and in all cases there is no differentiation between SMEs and large stakeholders,” she said.
A definition of what is a UTP is based on 2016 Council conclusions on the food supply chain, Spanish law and French law is included and the list of UTPs has been extended by Parliament.
The negotiations with the Council and Commission will focus on the extension of the scope and on the wider list of UTPs.
There is concern about possible impacts on exiting business models, including collaboration between independent buyers and this will need to be addressed in the negotiations.
“It’s not in anyone’s interest to impose specific restrictions on traditional business models, nor do we want to limit the trade of agricultural and food products”, she said.
“The file has been the subject of debate since April and this week will mark another important step in the process.
“We need to be mindful of the extent of the lobbying against the legislation, including unjustified concerns from consumer groups that it will lead to higher consumer prices.
“The Commission’s impact assessment clearly identified that food prices have not increased in Member States that already have introduced rules to tackle UTPs.
“If we are working towards a more sustainable food supply chain, there is no place for sharp practice by the powerful against those with less power and I believe there is consumer support for protecting producers from such activities,” she added.