Motion for a resolution - B7-0007/2012Motion for a resolution

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the imbalances in the food distribution chain (2011/2904(RSP))


further to Questions for Oral Answer B7‑0021/2012, B7–0675/2011 and B7‑0676/2011
pursuant to Rule 115(5) of the Rules of Procedure

James Nicholson, Janusz Wojciechowski on behalf of the ECR Group

Procedure : 2011/2904(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
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European Parliament resolution on the imbalances in the food distribution chain (2011/2904(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its resolution of 8 July 2010 on ‘the future of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013’[1], its resolution of 18 January 2011 on ‘the recognition of agriculture as a strategic sector in the context of food security’[2] and its resolution of 23 June 2011 on ‘the CAP towards 2020: Meeting the food, natural resources and territorial challenges’[3],

–   having regard to the Commission Communication entitled ‘Better functioning of the food supply chain in Europe’ (COM (2009) 0591),

–   having regard to the Commission Decision of 30 July 2010 establishing the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain (2010/C 210/03),

–   having regard to the final recommendations of the High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food of 17 March 2009,

–   having regard to the report ‘Agribusiness and the right to food’ by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food,

–   having regard to Rules 115(5) and 110(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the Commission’s communication on a better functioning of the food supply chain (COM (2009) 0591) recognizes that food represents 16% of European households’ expenditures and therefore high consumer prices are a source of concern because they put pressure on household incomes;

B.  whereas the Commission communication identified several imbalances in the food distribution chain including: abuse of dominant purchasing power; unfair contract terms; late payments; unilateral contract modifications; restricted access to the market and uneven distribution of profit margins throughout the food chain; and a number of problems associated with increased concentration in the retail sector;

C. whereas recent food and commodity price volatility has raised great concerns about the functioning of the food supply chains and the abilities to meet the key objectives of the supply chain which is to provide farmers with fair revenues and European consumers with a secure supply of quality products, at prices they are prepared to pay, within the overall context of sustainable production;

D. whereas there is a need to facilitate better access to markets for SMEs throughout the supply chain;

E.  whereas the effects of market concentration in any economic sector lead to lower price levels, and therefore lead to benefits for the consumer, but if not effectively controlled by competition authorities can have negative effects, by damaging free competition;

F.  whereas, given the number of actors in the chain and the fact that the cost of the primary product may only form a small part of the cost of the final product, it is not always easy to ascertain the extent of the link between the prices received by farmers and those charged to consumers;

G. whereas farmers very often go through processors as well as directly supplying retailers and the processing element of the food chain needs further analysis;

H. whereas there is a clear distinction between potentially unfair trading practices and potentially anti-competitive practices and neither are an inevitable consequence of imbalances in bargaining power;

I.   whereas own brand products are merely brands manufactured by or for retailers that bring increased value and choice for consumers, provide an outlet for many small and medium sized suppliers in many Member States, are produced by some leading manufactures of other brands and are often market leaders in terms of consumer information and public health;

1.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to explicitly recognise that a well functioning food supply chain is best served by a free competitive market in which all actors can act in a commercially sensible manner and achieve fair profits and in which regulation is used to guarantee and enforce competition, ensure potential access for new entrants, guarantee safety and correct clearly proven market failure;

2.  Considers that the asymmetric response observed between commodity and consumer food price developments could be a sign of imbalance in the food supply chain which could have negative consequences for both producers and consumers; calls on the Commission to examine and, if necessary, strengthen the Union’s tools in order to lessen price volatility on the agro-food market;

3.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to ensure that competition law and its enforcement are adequate to deal with any competitive infringements in the food chain; stresses that changes to the rules are only necessary if there is clear evidence that properly enforced existing rules cannot overcome a clearly ante-competitive practice in a neutral manner;

4.  Calls on national and EU competition authorities to investigate and, where necessary, take action against anti-competitive practices between all actors in the food supply chain, including such practices that may place farmers in an unfair bargaining position;

5.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to identify and combat abusive commercial practices, which are detrimental to the functioning of the internal market, including by wholesalers and retailers which could put farmers in an extremely unfair bargaining position; stresses that a better awareness of contractual rights will contribute to preventing these practices;

6.  Calls on the Member States to put contractual relations throughout the food chain on a more secure footing by proposing voluntary codes of good contractual practice;

7.  Proposes that as an initial step the Commission should encourage an exchange of best practice between Member States and examine the voluntary and regulatory methods used in Member States to identify and overcome unfair commercial practices;

8.  Encourages the establishment in all member states of Ombudsmen to arbitrate disputes between all actors, investigate complaints and make recommendations on how to improve compliance with legislation and voluntary codes; encourages these Ombudsmen to exchange best practices and coordinate their actions;

9.  Notes the measures in the Commission’s draft proposals for the reform of the CAP, designed to strengthen the position of farmers in the food supply chain, through support for producer organisations and inter-branch organisations; believes that strengthening farmers’ positions will help them to receive a fairer share of the added-value;  

10. Requests the Commission and the Member States to encourage suppliers, particularly farmers, to become more effective actors within the supply chain by organising themselves into cooperatives and/or producer organisations so that their bargaining power is increased; encourages them to invest upstream in the supply chain so they benefit from the added value to their products;

11. Calls on the Commission to reject any proposals based on a suggestion that the development of own brands is anti-competitive or unfair or which would undermine the capacity of own brands to deliver value for money and access to the market for small and medium sized enterprises as well as larger manufacturers in free, fair and open competition with other brands; stresses that retailers are businesses and have the right to determine which products they wish to sell subject to the laws of competition and fair practice and that own brands should be subject to the same regulations as other brands;

12. Calls on the Member States to establish proper and appropriate legal liability of operators and individuals abusing the food supply market.