Saving farmers, saving food 


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Call to cut 50% food wastage ©BELGA/EUREKA  

Farmers’ incomes are falling while food prices are rising and more and more food is being bought and then thrown away. On 19 January, MEPs looked at food from two different angles: on one hand they propose helping farmers earn a decent income and preventing them from being squeezed between high raw material prices and low farm gate prices and on the other called for a stop to the enormous food wastage in the EU.

Raw material costs for EU farmers climbed an average of almost 40% between 2000 and 2010, while farm gate prices increased on average by less than 25%. Farmers are being "squeezed" between low farm gate prices due to the strong position of processors and retailers, and high raw material prices due to an increased concentration among producers of things like fertilizer, fuel and farm machinery.

Improving negotiating power

MEPs suggest that farmers should get together to improve their bargaining power and call on competition authorities to tackle abuses by dominant agribusiness traders, retailers and  raw material producers.

They also want the European Commission to evaluate what impact EU legislation on food safety and environmental protection, which can increase the cost of food production, is having on the sustainability and competitiveness of European agriculture.  

Putting a stop to food wastage

Every year 89 million tonnes (179 kg per person) of healthy, edible food is wasted in the EU, accounting for around 50% of annual production. Without action, it is estimated that total food waste will rise to 126 million tonnes by 2020.

In a resolution, the EP said that reducing food waste would help combat global hunger, mean more efficient land use and better water resource management and lead to a reduction in the production of methane and carbon dioxide.

The EP calls for a range of measures including awareness raising, clarification of labels like "best before", "expiry date" and "use by", better packaging and discounting for products nearing expiry. They also want smaller local producers to have better access to government contracts and food redistribution programmes for the poor.