Results of the Informal Farm Council
INFORMAL FARM COUNCIL – SLOVAK’S MATECNA PUSHES FOR EU-WIDE FOOD CHAIN RULES
Slovak Agriculture Minister & current Council chair Gabriela Matečná called for a common, EU-wide response to curb unfair trading practices (UTPs) along the food chain at the informal gathering in Bratislava this week (Sept 11-13), while a number of delegations inc. DE, UK, SE, NL, FI, BE, LV & DK favour the current voluntary approach. Strengthening the position of farmers in the supply chain & tackling UTPs is a key priority for the Central European country, with Matečná adding that “price formation is lacking in transparency” making a case to extend market observatories to provide data on margins, retail & consumer prices. “Farmers are producing our food & thus determining our health … they must have fair conditions throughout the common market”, she added. This morning’s formal discussion in the ornate Reduta concert hall – home to the Slovak Philharmonic – was guided by 3 key questions on how to enhance farmers’ bargaining power - i) how can current farm policy be improved inc. support for farmers to better organise themselves into Producer Organisations when dealing with large retailers; ii) which measures need to be implemented at European level to achieve price transparency in the entire food supply chain; & iii) what form of a common framework at EU level is the most efficient to address UTPs.
Proceedings kicked off in Bratislava’s historic old town on Sun evening (Sept 11), while Ministers, delegates & journalists alike were treated to a warm Slovak welcome during their stay. Most agreed that the highlight of the well-organised visit was an impressive display of thoroughbred horses at the National Stud on the grounds of Château Topoľčianky. There was a good turn-out at the gathering, with each country represented by the Minister or Deputy. There were some notable exceptions inc. Czech Republic’s Marian Jurečka who remained in Prague to prepare the country’s budget & Lithuania’s Virginija Baltraitienė who was on the campaign trail back home ahead of elections on Oct 9. The UK’s George Eustice was also in attendance, while Ireland’s Michael Creed was upbeat on his arrival having just returned from a successful trade mission to China & Singapore, accompanied by representatives of major Irish agri-food firms.
Speaking ahead of the gala dinner at Bratislava Castle on the Monday evening, EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan said “as we are working to address the agricultural crisis through measures in the short-term, we are well-advised to keep looking at the longer-term & any solutions that can structurally improve the situation of farmers”. But he cautioned that “we should not fall in the trap of believing that finding the right answers to the questions are the be-all & end-all to certain agricultural sectors’ current calamities”. It is not possible “to regulate our way out of a basic imbalance of supply & demand …. [certain] measures can improve the situation but cannot turn the laws of supply & demand on their head”, he concluded. The EU’s farm chief departed early from the informal to make his way to the EP in Strasbourg to attend a key College meeting on the review of the Multi-annual Financial Framework & prepare Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker’s ‘State of the Union’ address (from 9am on Sept 14)