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EU proposes crackdown on unfair trading practices of food products

Brussels – Small-scale food producers need the backing of the European Union to ensure that sales contracts are honoured, the EU has argued while proposing policies to stamp out unfair practices in wholesale food markets.

In its first proposal on regulating unfair practices in food trade, the European Commission said that the new rules would give leverage to small and medium-size suppliers and companies, which often have no bargaining power against big retailers and food processors.

"It's about fairness"

The commission said it wanted to ban last-minute cancellations, late payments on perishable products, unilateral changes to contracts and making producers take back unsold products.

"Today's proposal is fundamentally about fairness – about giving voice to the voiceless – for those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves the victims of a weak bargaining position," said Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan.

"Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link."

The commission wants each EU countries to designate a public authority to enforce the proposed new rules if such a body does not already exist.

Industry pushback

The proposal, which still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and EU countries, already received some industry pushback.

The German trade association HDE called the measures "superfluous and harmful" that could lead to an increase in food retail prices.

Meanwhile, rights organizations welcomed the proposal.

"Nobody should suffer to stock our supermarket shelves, yet too many small farmers in poor countries producing food for European supermarkets are struggling to make ends meet," said Marc-Olivier Herman of Oxfam EU.

"This proposal could help them get a fairer deal for their produce."