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.
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.
Up to 50% of food gets wasted in EU households, supermarkets, restaurants and along the food supply chain each year, while 79 million EU citizens live beneath the poverty line and 16 million depend on food aid from charitable institutions. The proposed own-initiative opinion should give impetus to draw up at the European level a coordinated strategy, combining EU-wide and national measures, to improve the efficiency of food supply and consumption chains and to tackle food wastage as a matter of urgency.
The Commission recently published a Communication on a Renewed Partnership with the ACP Group of countries. ACP-EU relations are currently governed by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement that will expire in 2020, therefore the Commission has published recommendations on what the future structure should be. Last year the EESC already drafted a general opinion on the post-Cotonou framework; this new opinion will have to answer specifically to the Commission's communication.
The own-initiative opinion, prepared by the EESC Permanent Study Group on Sustainable Food Systems, will aim to identify existing challenges, policy inconsistencies and obstacles to a more coherent food policy approach at EU level; to provide examples of ongoing transitions to more sustainable food policies at local/regional/national level; to highlight the role of civil society in building partnerships among stakeholders across the food supply chain; and to define how a comprehensive food policy for the EU should look, including an indicative roadmap.
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.
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