Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Joe Healy said the EU Food Chain report contains important recommendations on increased price transparency and independent enforcement to strengthen farmers’ position in the food chain.
The task force was set up by EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, and provided advice and expertise on the functioning of agricultural markets and farmers' position in the food supply chain.
Mr Healy welcomed Commissioner Hogan’s commitment to prioritise the implementation of the report, saying: “It is critical that these recommendations are introduced without delay and actively enforced to rebalance power in the food chain in favour of farmers.”
The IFA has actively campaigned for maximum transparency on margins at processor and retailer level, and it says the Commission must now introduce mandatory price reporting for meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables to provide reliable and anonymous data on margins outside the farmgate all the way to consumer level. "Such a system operates in the US under the Livestock Reporting Act, which provides twice-daily price reporting on beef, pork and lamb," according to the IFA. "Transparency on margins in the food chain, combined with public disclosure of turnover, profit and tax details for all large companies in each Member State under a separate EU Commission proposal are necessary to provide full clarity and ensure a fair share of the consumer price for farmers."
Mr Healy said: “The report recognises the need for independent enforcement of retail regulation and this effectively supports IFA’s demand for an independent retail ombudsman. This is necessary to assure suppliers that complaints will be investigated and abuses prosecuted.”
Mr Healy said he was disappointed that the report did not deal with the impact of below-cost selling by retailers. “Below-cost selling undermines the price received by the primary producer over a period of time, as consumers place a lower value on the product.”
An IFA seminar, 'Tackling Unfair Trading Practices,' on November 30, which the UK Grocery Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon, is expected to attend, will address these issues, the IFA said.
Common Agricultural Policy
The report provides an indication of the future shape of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with a greater emphasis on risk management instruments to assist farmers to deal with volatility. The IFA president said: “The strengthening of risk management instruments through both public supports and in the agri-food industry is necessary. It is important that we continue to have a strong CAP which provides effective income support through strongly-funded basic payments and ANC.
“As recommended in the report, IFA believes that there is potential to utilise the Rural Development Programme (RDP) for the development of financial instruments, for example, in the form of loan products supported by the EIB, to deliver on-farm investment. However, RDP funding should continue to be mainly used for grant-based programmes which directly provide funding support to all participating farmers, irrespective of their on-farm financing arrangements.”