In a move backed by MEPs and the NFU alike, the European Parliament voted today to adopt the McGuinness report on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) in the food supply chain.
During votes in the Parliament's Agriculture committee today (Thursday), Scottish MEP Alyn Smith, who acted as Shadow Rapporteur for the report, successfully passed amendments to call for action instead of more analysis, and for framework legislation to protect all food suppliers, including in third countries.
“The report confirms what we already know – that voluntary initiatives have proven inadequate in stamping out late payments, listing fees, and retroactive changes to contracts.
“Instead, the Commission should now draw up an open list of UTPs to be banned at EU level, implement procedures to allow confidential complaints, and give enforcement bodies the power to impose appropriate sanctions.
“Farmers have been in a precarious position for too long. Not only is the Supply Chain Initiative woefully inadequate, and the Groceries Code Adjudicator a toothless tiger, but also the unfair power dynamic between suppliers and retailers is weighted heavily in favour of the latter.
“I'm all for supermarkets cutting prices. But our suppliers shouldn't be the ones who take the hit. Retrospective deductions, the threat of de-listing, demanding standards' compliance but at the suppliers' expense – these are all ways that Unfair Trading Practices are strangling farmers.
“Today’s opinion will be passed to the Internal Markets Committee for their consideration, so has some way to run, but this is an excellent start. I’m confident that today is the first step towards seeing a timely proposal for framework legislation at EU level.”
Other key amendments passed include that the Commission consider establishing a European regulator to coordinate actions of national regulators, and that better labelling schemes be used to provide information to consumers re. the food chain.