(content provided by EuroCommerce) EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren has commented on calls for legislation on trading practices in agriculture and the Commission decision to take the first steps towards proposing EU measures.
'Better regulation is a commitment'
Following the announcement by Commissioner Hogan at the European Parliament Agriculture committee yesterday of the launch of a process leading to proposals on trading practices, Verschueren posed a number of questions on the continued calls from some for legislation, and the Commission decision to take the first steps towards proposing EU measures:
"We are pleased that the Commission is following its better regulation guidelines in producing an inception impact assessment for consultation. What we will look for in that process is answers to a set of core questions which any better regulation exercise needs to ask - what a proposed measure will do, what problem is it meant to solve, and whether it will do so. Better regulation is not about a process, but a real commitment, which we have seen the Commission follow, to only put forward measures which address the real problems and help the competitiveness of the European economy."
EuroCommerce will take a constructive part in the consultative process which the Commission will launch with its impact assessment. It will, however, want to ask:
- if retailers only buy 5% of the goods they sell direct from farmers, how will imposing EU rules on their contractual negotiations, largely with the large multinational food processors, do anything for farmers?
- if countries with no legislation, but well-organised farmers, have healthy agricultural sectors, while countries with very intrusive legislation go from one crisis to the next, what effect can EU legislation bring about?
- if most food retailers buy is from suppliers in the same country as it is sold, not least because large manufacturers fragment the EU market and do not allow cross-border purchasing, what single market issues are being addressed by EU harmonization?
- if EU rules still allow fundamentally different national rules to apply, what harmonisation will these achieve?
Verschueren added: "We do not downplay the real problems which farmers face, and will support measures which can really address them. We want farmers to be able to organize to improve their bargaining power, both in buying vital inputs and selling their produce, while respecting competition rules.
We support ideas around market transparency and contractualisation, as well as other measures to help farmers weather the inevitable volatility that a global market involves. Above all, retailers want to build a real dialogue at European and national level to help ensure that farmers can produce the food in the right quantities and quality consumers want to buy. No legislation will ever be a substitute for that."