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European legislation to combat unfair commercial practices: in theory, something has moved. Now the agro-industry is waiting to understand if theoretical principles can lead to something concrete. Meanwhile, the first step has been taken: negotiations between the EU Council and the European Commission have raised to EUR 350 million (from the 50 million initially proposed) the turnover threshold within which farms and agri-food companies will be protected against unfair commercial practices, with the possibility for Member States to set even higher thresholds.
That is what Paolo De Castro, rapporteur and chief negotiator on this dossier for the European Parliament, explained on 19 December, in a meeting with the young farmers’ group, Apofruit cooperative. “We pushed hard,” De Castro said, “to achieve the most ambitious goal possible against unfair commercial practices perpetrated by the large-scale retail trade towards farmers and industry. […] We can now say that 100% of farmers and 98-99% of European companies will be protected from unfair and unacceptable practices.”
“We managed to get it,” he added, “after just eight months of negotiations from the presentation of the proposal by Commissioner Phil Hogan. In addition, we have increased sevenfold the scope of application of the Directive that actually will apply within Europe's borders. In fact, the new rules must also be respected by buyers of agri-food products that have their registered office in third countries.”
The contracts between suppliers and buyers must be written, and those who face unfair practices can report them personally or through associations, maintaining anonymity. The buyer will not be able to launched commercial retaliation, while the law enforcement authority will have the obligation to act within a certain time frame.
“This victory of the European Parliament and all the institutions,” said De Castro, “I wish it was dedicated to those who have believed and have done team-work to achieve this positive result, which may be revised in four years. Supporting the rights of those who work in the agri-food sector means supporting a just, supportive and common agriculture policy, without which Europe would no longer be one of the fundamental pillars on which its future is based.”