The recommendation for this platform was made by the EU High Level Group on competitiveness in the food sector.
The call for it to be a short term priority comes in a position statement published by the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA), the umbrella association for European food manufacturers, in response to the Commission’s communication on “A better functioning food supply chain in Europe”, adopted last October.
The idea is to “identify food chain malfunctions, while giving guidance on policy initiatives”. The CIAA says all food chain actors should be represented equally, and EU institutions should be involved too.
In the UK, confirmation that a retail ombudsman will be established to oversee retailer-supplier relations was met with applause from food manufacturers – albeit mixed with some scepticism of how effective it will be. Large retailers, on the other hand, oppose the move and claim it will drive up prices so that consumers will lose out.
The European Commission communication, covered by FoodNavigator.com here, set out three main areas for action: working with member states to promote sustainable market-based relationships between stakeholders; monitoring prices and speculation; and fostering integration in the EU’s internal markets.
While generally welcoming its publication, the CIAA considers that competition in the food chain is only partly addressed: the analysis does not consider operators’ business structures, and specificities of different sectors.
It draws attention to the need for further analysis of the impact of private labels, that is retailers own-brand goods that effectively make them both customer and competitor of branded goods manufacturers.
“EU food and drink manufacturers call for industry consultation within the elaboration of Commission studies on the use of private labels and the cost structure of food chain operators in the meat sector,” it said.
Contractual v commercial practices
The CIAA also says the recommendation to ban unfair contractual practices in the internal market is welcome, but suggests that unfair commercial practices also be addressed in an efficient way. It wants contractual freedom to be upheld, with key principles and contracting rules to be considered – whilst avoiding the introduction of contracts that could prove restrictive.
The CIAA’s full position paper is available at this link.