European policy guide aims to benefit growers

A new report intended to guide European agricultural policy makes a number of proposals intended to benefit farmers and growers, including mandatory exchange of pricing information, an EU-wide adjudicator on supply chain relations and support for sustainability and innovation.

Commission: Agricultural Markets Task Force set up to examine and improve position of farmers in supply chain - image: Thijster Haar
Commission: Agricultural Markets Task Force set up to examine and improve position of farmers in supply chain - image: Thijster Haar

The Agricultural Markets Task Force was set up in January this year by agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan to examine the position of farmers in the supply chain and suggest improvements. "There is concern that farmers ... are becoming the main shock absorber in the supply chain as regards market risks such as price volatility or prolonged periods of low prices," it says. Yet farmers suffer from an "information asymmetry" that "creates mistrust, in particular in relation to price transmission and the distribution of value added along the chain".

To remedy this, the report recommends mandatory price reporting "in duly aggregated form" via "easy-to-use communication formats" to address information gaps in the chain - that "could provide useful information for the public at large about the distribution of the value added along the chain". It also calls for an EU-wide adjudicator to cover alleged unfair trading practices such as maximum payment periods, which in the manner of the UK's grocery code adjudicator should have the power to conduct investigations based on anonymised complaints. It suggests that farmers should have a legal right to request and obtain a written contract with buyers.

On the future direction of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), it states: "A modern CAP should continue along the path taken. However, it should also play a role for those farmers who do not consider integration in international markets an opportunity to grow their business. (It) should remunerate farmers who specialise in specific products and services, provided they offer measurable advantages for animals, nature and landscapes which are in the public interest."

It adds: "The emphasis on innovation should be stepped up, eg on research and development in agricultural production methods and on new assisting technologies such as precision agriculture. Centres for education and training in Europe have to be revitalised and should integrate curricula focused on innovation, farm management and agricultural engineering."

Hogan said: "Strengthening the position of the farmer is a major priority. The importance of the issue is already acknowledged in the Commission work programme for 2017 and the report will play a key role in the delivery of this commitment."

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