In the opinion, the EESC highlights the fact that the weak position of the most vulnerable players in the food supply chain must be addressed by putting an end to unfair trading practices (UTPs) by food retailers (N.B. in the opinion the word "retailers" refers to the large-scale retail sector) and some transnational companies, which increase risk and uncertainty for all operators along the food supply chain and therefore generate unnecessary costs.
The EESC strongly supports the European Parliament's resolution of 7 June 2016 highlighting the need for framework legislation at EU level in order to tackle UTPs of food retailers and some transnational companies and to ensure that European farmers and consumers have the opportunity to benefit from fair selling and buying conditions. The EESC believes that due to the nature of UTPs it is both a requirement and a necessity to have EU legislation to prohibit them.
In particular, the EESC calls on the Commission and the Member States to take swift action to prevent UTPs by establishing an EU harmonised network of enforcement authorities with this aim, so as to create a level playing field within the single market.
The EESC also welcomes the creation of the EU-wide Supply Chain Initiative (SCI) and other national voluntary systems, but only as an addition to effective and robust enforcement mechanisms at Member State level. However, there is a need to ensure that all stakeholders (e.g. farmers and trade unions) can participate and that complaints can be lodged anonymously. It is also necessary to establish dissuasive penalties. In addition, such platforms should be able to react independently. The EESC also proposes the establishment of an Ombudsman with regulatory powers in pre-trial mediation.
The EESC calls for a ban on abusive practices, for example those listed in point 3.3 of the opinion. In particular, the EESC recommends that suppliers, such as farmers, be paid a price that is not below the cost of production. The EESC also calls for an effective ban on food retailers selling below cost price.
The EESC recommends that alternative business models that play a role in shortening the supply chain between producers of food and the end consumer be encouraged and supported, e.g. through Member State public procurement policies. The EESC also suggests that the role and position of cooperatives and producer organisations should be strengthened in order to restore the balance of power in the food supply chain.
Finally, the EESC proposes to launch a Europe-wide information and awareness-raising campaign on "the value of food". This would be necessary to ensure a long-term change in consumers' behaviour.