The weak relative position of farmers in the food supply chain is a long-standing issue that needs to be definitively addressed, according to Agriculture Minister Michael Creed.
He told an informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Bratislava that the position of farmers in the chain must be strengthened.
“We have been responding to recent market difficulties with short-term measures, which, while helpful, need to be augmented with more medium-term, structural measures”, he said.
Mr Creed supported calls from other member states for action to facilitate further co-operation between all actors in the chain, increasing transparency in the availability of market and pricing information and dealing more effectively with unfair trading practices.
He called on the European Commission to consider the value of an EU legislative framework to deal with unfair trading practices. The experience in Ireland and elsewhere had shown that voluntary or self-regulatory approaches to dealing with unfair trading practices are of limited value.
“It can also lead to wide variations across member states. I would, therefore, welcome a more active commission interest in EU legislation,” said Mr Creed.
He said changes to the legislative framework will have to be accompanied by other measures to improve the sustainability of the food supply chain.
“These include initiatives to help farmers to reduce costs, improve competitiveness and adopt innovative approaches to the management of their enterprises,” he said.
Copa and Cogeca, the umbrella bodies for European farmers and co-ops, welcomed the Farm Council focus on the positioning of farmers in the food chain so that they can get a better and fairer price for their produce.
Thomas Magnusson, the Cogeca president, said farmers are being squeezed by both the upstream and downstream sectors, with the retail sector dominated by just a few operators in many member states.
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