EU initiative to tackle unfair trading practices launched

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Following on from Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan’s announcement in June regarding possible legislation on the food supply chain, the commission has now published an ‘inception impact assessment’ (IIA) which stakeholders have four weeks to react to, ahead of a 12-week public consultation.

The IIA seeks to tackle unfair trading practices (UTPs), market transparency and producer cooperation. The IIA outlines four possible policy options for combating unfair trading practices, noting that ‘small operators in the chain, including farmers, usually have little bargaining power and are more likely to be victims of UTPs.’

The baseline option continues down the current path of national legislation and voluntary codes, whilst the second option involves EU-wide non-legislative guidelines and recommendations to member states, to ‘foster a common understanding of what practices are considered to be unfair.’

The third scenario would prohibit specific UTPs along the lines of the Agriculture Markets Task Force report in November 2016, with common minimum enforcement standards across the member states. The final option put forward is minimum EU framework legislation for the whole food supply chain, setting out general criteria of UTPs and then allowing member states to implement them but with mandatory compliance across the whole chain.

The commission believes that the fourth option will ‘help build the trust needed between the actors in the chain.

Following the public consultation this autumn, the commission has committed to publish proposals, either legislative or non-legislative, in spring 2018.