Alyn Smith MEP has slammed the decision to create a new forum – the Agricultural Markets Task Force – to discuss supply chain issues as the latest in a long line of delays that farmers cannot afford.
The Task Force is not due to report until the autumn of 2016, despite coming in the wake of a strong report co-authored by Alyn, calling for swift EU action on supply chain issues that cripple farmers and often leave them shouldering the burden of supermarket Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs).
“There are some worthy people on this panel, and I wish them all the best, but this is a story we’ve heard many times before.
“It frustrates me that when issues such as the imbalance of power in the supply chain and volatility of markets are so clear, and have been comprehensively analysed on so many occasions in recent years - with clear recommendations for action - that the Commission seems paralysed by inactivity and indecision by committee.
“Financial instruments are certainly worth examining on their merits but with the dairy market in crisis and consistent reports of bad behaviour by retailers and processors towards suppliers, farmers can’t afford to wait any longer for action.
“Nor must legitimate needs for farmers to hedge risk become an opportunity for speculators to play havoc with food prices, as we saw in 2008. These markets must be properly regulated.
“We only have to look at last week's Groceries Code Adjudicator case to see what happens when authorities are sluggish – thanks to the UK Government taking so long to grant the GCA the power to fine supermarkets, Tesco was found guilty of deliberately delaying payments to farmers, but got away without a fine.
“That’s why I’m urging Scotland’s farmers to keep in touch, as I’ll continue doing all I can to support farmers against UTPs.”