THE European Parliament has voted in favour of a report which calls for a better functioning food supply chain that will deliver a fairer return to farmers.
Máiréad McGuinness (FG), Marian Harkin (Ind) and Seán Kelly (FG), all Irish members of the parliament, as well as Copa-Cogeca, the umbrella body for European farmers and co-ops welcomed the decision.
Ms McGuinness said the debate provoked much debate among MEPs, with concerns that it went against the interests of the so-called “free market”.
“However, I am glad that sense prevailed and the report received the overwhelming support of parliament,” she said.
Ms McGuinness said there is a problem in the food supply chain. Farmers cannot set the price they receive for what they produce. They are price takers, not price makers.
“It is, therefore, important that those who set the price farmers receive do it in an open and transparent way.
“The price paid to farmers must reflect the key role they play in producing all of the food and raw materials which feed our people,” she said.
Ms McGuinness said the vote sends a clear signal to all of the participants in the food chain that there is political concern about how little farmers receive for what they produce and that over time farmers are receiving less and less.
Ms Harkin said the attitude of the Competition Authority and the Economic and Social Research Institute in Ireland towards fair treatment for farmers in the food chain is in marked contrast to that of the European Parliament which voted to support a ban on below cost selling of agri-food products.
“A recent survey in Ireland revealed that 74% of consumers believed that farmers do not receive a fair price for their produce.
“This is confirmed by the fact that in Ireland farmers receive just 33% of the retail price of milk, 50% of the beef price and 20% of the cheese price,” she said.
Mr Kelly said farmers have suffered for too long at the hands of processors and retailers. Any fair system should ensure profits are shared equally between all links in the production and supply chain. “This is a first step in the fight to ensure a fair system for farmers. We now have to deliver a properly-funded CAP to ensure the viability and survival of the family farm as a socio-economic unit.
“The fact of the matter is that without the family farm there would be no profits for processors and retailers in the EU,” he said.
Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen said MEPs had pushed strongly for better prices for farmers so they can get a fairer share of a final sale price for their products.
This was particularly important given that farmers’ market returns are being squeezed, he said.
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