New draft rules to better protect farmers against buyers’ unfair trading practices in the European Union have been approved by the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.
Lawmakers have broadened the scope of the draft law to: include all actors in the food supply chain, and not only small- and medium-sized producers and big buyers; and cover trade of agricultural products and ancillary services, on top of foodstuffs.
The announcement comes after the European Commission revealed proposals earlier this year to ban more damaging unfair trading practices in the food supply chain to ensure fairer treatment for small- and medium-sized food and farming businesses.
A joint statement released by a range of organisations representing farmers – including Copa-Cogeca and the European Council of Young Farmers – said the rules will “benefit all actors and consumers”.
“The legislation guarantees that agreed contracts between farmers, producers and retailers are respected and that no party can apply unfair trading practices,” the statement read.
The proposed blacklist of unfair trading practices includes: payments made later than 30 days for perishable agricultural and food products and later than 60 days for non-perishable products, and unilateral cancellation of an order of perishable products less than 60 days from the agreed delivery date.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also agreed that also the following practices should be outlawed: when a buyer refuses to sign a written contract with the supplier, who would now have a newly established right to request it, or to provide the latter with sufficiently detailed supply terms; when a buyer shares or misuses confidential information, relating to the supply agreement.
To make life easier for food producers, MEPs propose to allow them to lodge complaints where they are established, even if unfair trading practices occurred elsewhere in the EU.
Paolo De Castro, chair of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “In this battle of David versus Goliath, we are arming the weakest in the food supply chain to ensure fairness, healthier food and social rights.
“Small producers, workers, consumers, all of us, will soon stop suffering the consequences of unfair trade practices imposed by big players in the food supply chain.”
The text approved in the Agriculture Committee will now be submitted to the plenary to seek MEPs’ green light for negotiations with EU ministers.
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