The National Farmers’ Union has added its voice to calls for the introduction of a Groceries Code Adjudicator-style body covering the whole of Europe.
Despite the UK’s impending departure from the EU, NFU president Meurig Raymond said the introduction of a GCA-type body for Europe was crucial in order to give British farmers and food suppliers the same kind of protection they enjoy domestically when they trade abroad.
Raymond is set to discuss the proposals later today alongside GCA Christine Tacon in Brussels at a food supply chain seminar hosted by European political group European Conservatives and Reformists.
The NFU said he would reiterate that “open and fair access to European markets remain a high priority for the wider UK rural economy”, an issue that will become even more important in negotiations on the UK’s future outside the EU.
“As well as strong regulation at a European level, we wish to see an independent enforcement office such as the GCA introduced,” he said.
“I know there are many who fear this will lead to overzealous European regulation - but implemented in a proper way this will give producers the security and confidence they so badly need,” Raymond added.
“The purpose of this is to give suppliers the confidence to highlight unfair trading practices in a confidential way. This confidentiality is crucial as submitting evidence on unfair trading practices can be very damaging for a supplier, if this information is within the public domain.”
The European Commission said in June it would look again at unfair trading practices in the food supply chain after 600 MEPs voted in favour of a resolution calling for a more robust stance against the issue.
However, EC president Jean-Claude Juncker made no mention of the proposals in his State of the European Union speech last week, leaving UK farming unions “disappointed”, said Raymond.
“This is a clear example of an area where European oversight is badly needed and we urge the Commission to come forward with legislation providing meaningful protection for Europe’s farmers and shoppers.”