The EU must do more to help farmers to earn a fair return from the food supply chain, introduce better tools for dealing with market disturbances and help farmers to find new outlets for produce shut out of the Russian market, MEPs say in two non-binding resolutions voted on Tuesday. Member states should help them join forces in producer organisations to boost their bargaining power, they add.
"There are many long-term opportunities for the EU's dairy sector but the Commission has so far failed to recognise the scale of new challenges it has to face, e.g. the end of milk quotas, the recently-prolonged Russian embargo on EU foodstuffs and price volatility. To tackle these, we must use existing tools more effectively, but the EU must also do more to help its dairy sector become a global leader and not a global follower", said James Nicholson (ECR, UK) who drafted the milk resolution and steered the so-called Milk Package through the Parliament in 2012. The resolution, on prospects for the EU dairy sector, was approved by 510 votes to 154, with 44 abstentions.
"We must encourage growers to join producer organisations so as to increase their bargaining power, strengthen their position in the food supply chain and thus improve their incomes. It is also essential to increase their competitiveness and tackle unfair trading practices. Furthermore, the EU must help its farmers find new outlets for their products and facilitate exports", said Nuno Melo (EPP, PT), rapporteur on the fruit and vegetable resolution, which reviews developments in the EU's fruit and vegetable sector since the 2007 reform. The resolution was approved by 598 votes to 53, with 41 abstentions.
Fairer food supply chain and better tools to fight market crises
MEPs insist that the EU must better balance the food supply chain, further improve milk market monitoring, introduce better tools for dealing with market disturbances and provide further incentives for dairy farmers, fruit and vegetable growers to join forces in producer organisations.
Parliament calls on the Commission and EU member states to:
- develop more responsive and realistic crisis instruments as existing market measures are neither enough nor sufficiently up-to-date to address current challenges,
- table legislative proposals to tackle unfair trading practices, e.g. by introducing mechanisms to protect farmers from abuses in the retail market;
- enable the recently-established Milk Market Observatory to send earlier and more frequent crisis warnings and recommend necessary actions,
- improve recognition of producer organisations (POs) to boost farmers' power in contract negotiations,
- help producer organisations to provide stronger incentives for farmers to join new groupings or merge existing ones,
- diversify export markets to help EU producers to withstand the prolonged Russian ban on imports from the EU and make the most of expansion opportunities after the recent abolition of milk quotas, and
- boost exports, by removing third countries' tariff and plant health barriers through trade negotiations and closely monitoring international markets trends to identify export opportunities.