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Unions attack EU over abusive food chain practices

COPA-COGECA, the umbrella organisation for the European Union's farming unions and farm co-operatives, expressed its disappointment yesterday about the lack of an agreement on implementation and enforcement of a code of good practice along the food supply chain.

An agreement would have helped in combating unfair and abusive practices in the food chain.

Such practices include cases where contracting parties refuse to put essential terms in writing in agreements, or unilateral retrospective changes to contract clauses.

Copa-Cogeca has been working hard with the European Commission and all players along the food chain to strike a fair deal which ensured rules are properly enforced, and disputes resolved when principles are not applied. This is more important than ever given the huge imbalance of power in the food chain and farmers' dwindling returns.

Last summer, when no agreement was reached between stakeholders on the proposed Framework for Implementation and Enforcement of the principles of Good Practice, Copa-Cogeca outlined serious shortcomings they believed had to be addressed. These included the dispute settlement scheme which did not provide a guarantee of anonymity for complainants to put suppliers out of reach of retaliatory action from their clients.

The same scheme failed to include sanctions and compensation to the plaintiff if the principles of good practice were not applied.

Copa-Cogeca's Working Party on the Food Chain worked hard to propose precise amendments to strengthen the proposals and to get an agreement between EU stakeholders –but despite months of wrangling, there are still areas where significant differences in positions exist amongst stakeholders.

Speaking in Brussels, Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen said: "We want an end to threatening behaviour from contracting parties in favour of fair contract terms in the food chain – but in view of the huge differences, this could not be achieved.

"We call upon the European Commission to pursue a route leading to legislation that sets the foundations for an EU approach to voluntary codes."

United Auctions sold 811 store bullocks at Stirling on Thursday to a top of 277.8p per kg and an average of 191p (+3.4p on the week), while 372 store heifers peaked at 296.3p and levelled at 184.8p (+3.1p).

Ninety-one young bulls sold to 224.2p and averaged 152.7p.

In the rough ring, 234 cast cows averaged 117.2p.

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Food and drink

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