Producer organisations (POs) are the basic actors in the fruit and vegetables regime.
In the face of ever greater concentration of demand, grouping supply in this way strengthens producers' position in the market.
The EU fruit and vegetable regime supports operational programmes implemented by recognised producer organisations (POs), by making a funding contribution to the programmes' operational funds.
In certain regions, transitional support is also given to encourage producers to form producer groups (PGs), to cover administration costs and the investments needed to attain recognition as producer organisations.
Recognition of interbranch organisations (IBOs) is favoured where they proof to be sufficiently representative of the various occupational categories of the fruit and vegetables sector and they carry out practical actions contributing to the goals of the scheme.
The regime requires national authorities to recognise any group of producers that applies for PO status - if they meet a number of requirements, especially that the grouping should:
- be voluntary
- contribute to the general aims of the regime
- prove its utility by the scope and efficiency of the services offered to members.
A recognised PO may set up an operational fund to finance its operational programme. This fund is financed by the financial contribution of members (or the producer organisation itself) and the EU financial assistance. As a general rule, the EU financial assistance is limited to 50% of the total operational fund, but in specific cases it may be increased at 60%.
In regions where producers haven't formed organisations to any great extent, national governments may provide national funding, over and above the operational fund. In some cases, this may be partially reimbursed by the EU.
The national authorities must set up a national strategy for sustainable operational programmes, to define which measures are eligible for support.
POs' operational programmes must be approved by the relevant national authorities.
Both the programmes and the national strategy are monitored and evaluated by the Commission, based on a common set of performance indicators.
POs are also required to file annual reports on the implementation of their operational programmes with the authority managing their country's strategy. The annual reports must accompany the applications for aid.
Similarly, each country must send the Commission a national annual report on all their POs, PGs, operational funds and programmes, and recognition plans. For details on the report format, see the Country files .
At the request of a producer organisation (PO), a Member State may also make binding, for a limited period, some of the rules agreed on within that organisation on other non-member producers in the region or regions where the PO is operating.
Extensions of rules of producer organisations or of associations of producer organisations currently in force
Producer groups (PGs) are legal bodies formed by farmers who grow produce covered by the regime and wish to acquire the status of recognised producer organisations.
PGs in countries that joined the EU after 2003 or in the EU's outermost regions or smaller Aegean Islands may be allowed a transitional period (maximum 5 years) to meet the conditions for recognition as a PO.
To qualify, they must present a phased recognition plan to their national authorities. If this is accepted, it constitutes preliminary recognition and signals the start of the transitional period.
During the transition period, the authorities may grant these groups funding to:
- encourage them to form and cover administrative costs
- cover part of the investment needed to attain recognition (and set out in their recognition plan).
This funding may be partially reimbursed by the EU. It ceases once the PG is recognised as a PO.
Amendments to the rules on Producer Groups
On 3 April 2012, the Management Committee voted through certain amendments to the rules on Producer Groups, in particular in order to stabilise spending. These included the introduction of a ceiling of EUR 10 Million per calendar year on EU expenditure for the recognition plans of new Producer Groups (i.e. those plans submitted after April 5, 2012), which does not apply to the 5 year plans of producer groups approved before that date (except where the PG had not yet committed itself financially or had not yet entered into legally binding arrangements with third parties). This amendment also includes ceilings on the EU contribution to aid to investments based on the value of the production marketed by a Producer Group: no ceiling in the first 2 years of implementation of the recognition plan, and a ceiling of 70%, 50% and 20% of the value of marketed production applies on the 3rd, 4th and 5th years, respectively.
Member States may recognise as interbranch organisations in the fruit and vegetables sector all legal entities established on their territory that fulfil certain specific conditions, including:
- carrying out specific activities contributing to the goals of the scheme in one or more regions in the Member State concerned;
- representing a significant share of the production of, trade in and/or processing of fruit and vegetables and products processed from fruit and vegetables in the region or regions in question and, where more than one region is involved, being able to demonstrate a minimum level of representativeness in each region for each of the branches that they group.
At the request of a recognised interbranch organisation (IBO), a Member State may also make binding, for a limited period, some of the rules (agreements, decisions or concerted practices) agreed on within that organisation on other operators in the region or regions where the IBO carries out its activities.