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EU Task Force: voluntary measures are insufficient to root out abusive trading practices in the agri-food chain

17 November 2016

This working group, created in January 2016 to analyze agricultural markets, presented its conclusions in the European Commission on Monday. The necessary public regulation of the European food chain has to be accompanied by market management measures that allow producers to balance out prices at source with actual costs.

Enough analysis. it is time to take action and develop public EU regulations that prohibit abusive commercial practices


Brussels, November 17, 2016. The Agricultural Markets Task Force of the EU recognizes that the voluntary initiatives looking to prevent unfair commercial practices are insufficient. Furthermore, in the conclusion document, a clear reference is made, expressing the necessity to initiate new standards on an EU level in order to confront these unfair commercial practices, and to establish efficient compliance systems in Member States. For the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) this is a fundamental aspect which has to be promoted urgently.


It is essential to initiate public regulation mechanisms on a European level in order to prevent the unfair and abusive practices between actors of the food chain. There should be binding regulation and a single legal approach for the entire European Union, which prohibits particular abusive practices (sales at loss, blind auctions, taxation of atypical payments…) that serve as a common feature for all commercial operations, and guarantee homogenous conditions in the European Union, although a certain margin could be left open for Member States to adapt to their particularities.


Relying only on a voluntary system to confront unfair commercial practices is insufficient and ineffective: it does not enable peasant farmers to present their complaints anonymously or reduce the fear generated by chance their clients will retaliate. The lack of enforcement by a third independent authority that can impose sanctions in the event of non-compliance with codes of practice is the main weakness of any voluntary system.


Abusive commercial practices must be eliminated because they generate unnecessary costs, are an attack on the profitability of farms and bring distortions to competition. They do not offer advantages to the consumer and they represent costs for the operators. In addition, they are unfair competition for those operators who don’t take part in them.


In this sense, ECVC demands immediate actions for improving peasants’ incomes and their position in the food chain. It is time to act, not only to analyse. The situation farmers are in is very serious and solutions must be implemented.


The functioning of the agri-food chain should be analysed from a global framework perspective, touched by free trade and the loss of regulatory measures and support of markets at the level of peasant farmers. It’s not enough to fight against bad practices to ensure a sustainable future. It is for this reason that the analysis report is insufficient and far from the causes of the crisis bore by peasants. Managing the market and its repeated price crises, as well as lease guarantees, will not be obtained by the privatization of subsidies through insurances, but through policies of public market regulation.


The Agricultural Markets Task Force of the EU was created in January 2016 and on Monday presented the conclusions of its work to the Agriculture and Fishery Council. Its mandate focused on “to discuss relevant issues, such as market transparency, access for farmers to financial instruments and futures markets to hedge price risks, options for arranging contractual relations within the chain and legal possibilities for organising farmers’ collective actions. All of this with a view to improving the position of farmers in the food chain”.