12 Apr 2018


Brussels, Brussels Daily

Unfair trading practices in food chain: MEPs welcome draft EU law, vow to improve it


The long-awaited draft EU law against unfair trading practices in the food supply chain, tabled by the EU Commission today, is a landmark and a historic step, but can still be improved.

This was the main message many MEPs conveyed during their debate with Commissioner Phil Hogan on Thursday morning, just moments after the new draft directive against unfair trading practices (UTPs) in business-to-business relationships in the food supply chain was tabled by the EU Commission.

“Today we are showing what the Europe that protects looks like in practice in the field of food and farming”, Commissioner Hogan said at the beginning of his presentation. “Today’s proposal is fundamentally about fairness and about farmers”, he stressed noting that “this is the first time in the history that the [EU] Commission is proposing a legislation in this area.” He also explained that the proposal is an extension of the work on the so-called Omnibus law, and will be later followed by the initiative to improve market transparency.

Welcoming the Commission’s proposal Albert Dess (EPP, DE) said that “we have to build on it and improve it”. He compared the UTPs to high roaming prices which the EU in the end managed to do away with. “Big companies” often “strong-arm” and “blackmail” farmers, he said and pledged that his group will be working hard to conclude works on this new EU law by the end of EP term.

“It is a good initiative … but we need to go further”, said Eric Andrieu (S&D, FR) stressing that “concentration” is a “serious issue” that has a “negative impact on the global food system” and so must be dealt with. He also said that “fighting unfair practices must start with subcontractors in the food sector.”

The proposal was warmly welcomed also by Anthea McIntyre (ECR, UK). “It is so important that we strengthen the position of farmers in the food supply chain”, she said stressing the importance of “fair price” and “fair treatment” for farmers. The new EU law should be built on the basis of positive examples in member states where considerable progress has been made, she said, pointing out the achievements of the UK’s Groceries Code Adjudicator.

Ulrike Müller (ALDE, DE) welcomed the fact that the draft law is a “directive rather than a regulation”, as this allows “basic rules [to be] set down by Europe and member states can then adapt it” to their needs. Nevertheless, “it is a good idea to tackle this aspect on the EU level”, but “some things are missing”, she said, e.g. a way to motivate farmers to use stronger contractual possibilities and an update of EU competition rules.

This initiative “has taken a fair while” and is “not a major breakthrough yet” as “there is one unresolved problem” and that is “the imbalance in relationships between small companies and big monopolies”, said Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE). He expressed hope that the Parliament will help to bring about more actions from the 2016 EP resolution on ways to tackle UTPs.

“It is definitely a good start”, said Luke Ming Flanagan (GUE/NGL, IE) in his first reaction to the draft EU law. “If everything that we are taking about comes to fruition, we might see possibly that people would be able to stay in farming.” He compared the situation to David vs Goliath expressing hope that the new law “will put a little stone (…) into David’s hands so that we can take down Goliath”.

John Stuart Agnew (EFDD, UK) said he was concerned that “this activity of the EU could undermine the UK’s Groceries Code Adjudicator” during “the indefinite transition period” during which the EU law will apply in the UK. He also asked the Commission about “the P word” – how supermarkets are going to be punished and whether the consumer will pay for it in the end.

“Anything that prevents arbitrary practices being imposed by big players has to be a good thing”, said Philippe Loiseau (ENF, FR). “Consumers are willing to pay more for quality products and thereby allow our producers to get fair prices”, he stressed. He also said that denouncing UTPs while negotiating trade deal with Mercosur is “hypocrisy”.

You can re-watch the full debate via VOD.



The European Parliament called in 2016 for EU actions to do away with unfair trading practices. In 2017, the call for an EU anti-UTPs law appeared also in the Agriculture Committee’s position on the so-called Omnibus proposal.

MEPs discussed the matter with several EU agriculture ministers and agreed with them that an EU law is necessary to efficiently fight unfair trading in the food supply chain. Once Commissioner Hogan announced his intention to table such a draft law, MEPs urged him to move fast.


Procedure: Debate on the Commission’s proposal

Disclaimer: this is an informal message intended to help journalists covering the work of the European Parliament. It is neither an official press release nor a comprehensive record of proceedings.


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