Scottish MEP Alyn Smith has dismissed the “fine words and flannel” of a long-awaited EU report on the food chain.
In the wake of the report, Mr Smith, the only Scottish member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, has called for more Government support for milk farmers
He pointed out that while milk prices continue to barely cover the cost of production, the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain report “glosses over” major challenges faced by farmers, such as the unfair bargaining power of suppliers, volatile market prices, and the growing burden of input costs.
With falling milk prices, estimated at an average of 0.30EUR per 100kg, Mr Smith declared that more needs to be done to help farmers in Europe.
After speaking to Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, he has secured his promise to look at reviewing competition law to allow fair bargaining power for producers and ensure a fair price for their products, including milk.
Mr Smith said: “This report is as damp a squib as I’ve seen in a long time.
“High level forums, market studies and voluntary initiatives are all very well, but if they don’t deliver for farmers the real policy changes needed to improve their market position then producers can be forgiven for feeling a little cynical - as am I.
“The elephant in the room here is food chain bargaining power and competition law. Yet the Commission refuses to contemplate legal action or take real steps to reduce reliance on inputs whose prices will only increase.
“I’m disappointed that after several years of talk the Commission’s attempts to bring stakeholders together has produced so little in the way of concrete action, beyond warm words about further study and continued partnership.
“Our indigenous food production infrastructure in Europe is a real asset which relentless squeezing of suppliers has put under threat, and which is not easily replaceable once gone. Commissioner Hogan and his colleagues need to act to give our producers a fair shot to get the price they deserve. They need to do better than the last Commission has done with this empty report.”