Over recent years, there has been a shift in bargaining power in the food supply chain, mostly to the advantage of the retail sector and some transnational companies and to the detriment of suppliers, in particular primary producers. The concentration of bargaining power has led to the abuse of positions of dominance causing weaker operators to become increasingly vulnerable to Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs). The opinion takes stock of the impact of UTPs, stresses the difficult position of the most vulnerable actors along the chain and calls for action at EU level to stop UTPs and promote a fairer food supply chain.
In the past few years, civil society has been increasingly concerned about the environmental and social impact of food production and consumption. At the request of the Dutch EU Presidency, the EESC is preparing an exploratory opinion on how to achieve sustainable food systems in a resource-constrained world. The opinion takes a holistic and comprehensive approach, looking at the interdependence of food production and consumption as well as fostering inter-sectoral cooperation.
Opinion on The importance of agricultural trade for the future development of agriculture and farming in the EU in the context of global food security
The Committee has received a request for an exploratory opinion from the incoming Latvian Presidency, which recommended to look at the following aspects in regard to the agricultural and forestry sectors: rural development, social aspects, regional contribution and the potential in achieving objectives and the "self-sufficiency" of the EU in the fields of food and renewable energy. A holistic assessment and approach is required in order to facilitate the reduction of GHG emissions without hampering the sustainable development and competitiveness of the EU.
The EESC considers the abolition of the milk quota system from 31 March 2015, as decided in 2008, to be a fundamental change. Since the introduction of this comprehensive method of guiding production on 1 April 1984, it has over time become increasingly clear that dairy prices and farmers' incomes have not been sufficiently effectively supported and stabilised and that dairy production in the EU has decreased, while rising significantly worldwide.
The EESC argues that EU dairy policy after expiry of the milk quota system, i.e. post-2015, must not only allow for growth and expansion but should also be obligated to avoid abandonment of dairying and to provide support for smaller farmers especially in disadvantaged areas and mountainous regions .
Growing global demand for food and the financial investors' interest in the agricultural sector have led to large-scale acquisitions, also known as "land grabbing", of farming land all over the world. .
The aim of the opinion is to take stock of the land grabbing phenomenon in the EU, and to discuss its extent and various causes. The document should explain the implications of this process for the environment, jobs, the local population, rural life and food security. It focuses on large-scale acquisitions of agricultural land (including the associated bodies of water), which should be seen as a natural resource.
As 2014 has been designated as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) by the UN, the opinion will also contribute to the debate in this context.
Adopted at the plenary session 10-11 December 2014