Tuesday, 15 November 2016
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
625. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the input Ireland has made or submitted to the European Commission to the agricultural markets task force to improve the position of farmers in the food chain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34409/16]
In the context of Ireland’s ongoing response over the last eighteen months to the difficulties experienced on agricultural markets, I have made our position clear at Agriculture Council on the range of issues considered by the Agricultural Markets Task Force. In terms of direct input, officials from my Department, along with those from other Member States, met with the Task Force in September to reiterate these points and to respond to questions from the Task Force on issues such as the operation of market safety net measures and the means by which greater transparency could be brought to the functioning of the food supply chain.
We highlighted the fact that free and fair competition must be the prerequisite for a sustainable food supply chain, accompanied by balanced relationships between all of the entities along the chain. We also emphasised that operators along the supply chain should acknowledge their interdependence with each other, and to work together to develop a model which sustains agricultural production, without which none of the downstream industrial or service sectors could exist.
With regard to unfair trading practices, we considered that an EU-wide legislative framework would be a very useful step, as voluntary arrangements in our experience had proven to be of limited effectiveness, and the Single Market required legislative frameworks in order to function well and freely. We also considered that measures to reduce cost, improve competitiveness and support innovation would be required in order to improve the longer-term sustainability of the food supply chain.
On price observatories and market transparency, we drew attention to the fact that knowledge of market pricing in the EU is quite limited. Producer returns at primary level are quite well publicised, retail prices are also known but there is little data on the basis on which they are constructed. We said we would welcome efforts to improve transparency at processer and retailer levels in this regard.
I took the opportunity to highlight these points during the informal Agriculture Ministers meeting in Bratislava in September, which also focused on the question of how to improve farmers’ position in the food supply chain.