Unfair trading practices (UTPs) result in negative economic, social and environmental effects. The food supply chain is particularly vulnerable to UTPs, as the Commission has recognised. However, its proposal for a directive on unfair trade practices in the food supply chain does not go far enough.

"The power concentration in the food chain is increasing, and farmers, workers, SMEs and consumers are the ones to suffer the most. It is not enough to adopt a minimum harmonisation approach. We need an EU legal framework banning all abusive practices", reiterates Peter Schmidt. Furthermore, agricultural non-food products and feed also need to be covered by the legislation.

Another EESC proposal relates to the enforcement mechanisms, which need to be much stronger and ensure that the anonymity of the complainant is protected. Enforcement could take the form of a specific ombudsman procedure, class action and law enforcement by the authorities. To facilitate the complaint process, written contracts should be mandatory and would bring more fairness in the negotiations.

Regarding the scope of protection, the EESC considers it necessary to extend it to all operators within and outside the EU, because - even when large operators are victims of UTPs - the pressure will inevitably be passed on to the weakest actors in the chain.

Moreover, the fact that food is sold below cost price is unacceptable. "We want an effective ban on the sale of goods below the cost of production in the food trade", stressed Mr Schmidt. "Producers, like farmers, need to be paid a fair and just price. They should receive an income that is adequate for investment, innovation and sustainable production."(sma)