This was an important week for everyone who wants to change the fact that farmers currently get a raw deal in the European food supply chain. Yesterday I spoke at the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain in Brussels, outlining my work to date on this important issue.
And earlier in the week, the Slovak EU Presidency secured unanimous Council Conclusions on strengthening the position of farmers, in particular as regards unfair trading practices. Ministers also signed up to greater transparency on margins and prices, as well as agreeing clearer ways to achieve producer cooperation.
This work builds on the European Parliament report - adopted in June by an overwhelming majority of 600 to 38 - calling for EU legislative action to tackle unfair trading practices.
These clear indications from the Council and Parliament constitute a strong mandate for action. This is further recognised by the Commission Work Programme for 2017 (p.6), which gives the green light to consider further action as necessary, to ensure that there is real balance in the food chain.
Accordingly, I told the High Level Forum that 2017 offers a real opportunity to strike while the iron is hot, working in parallel to other initiatives as part of a comprehensive approach to tackling problems in the food chain. Likewise, my colleague Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, in her thoughtful opening address to the High Level Forum, stressed that "now we need tangible improvement and a commitment to act."
I believe the recommendations of the independent Agrimarkets Taskforce, which I established to address this issue, constitute a roadmap for progress in many key areas.
The Forum adopted a Work Programme, whose three main clusters - Fair and efficient trading practises; Competitiveness and new opportunities in the single market; and Price transparency within the food chain - are well chosen, and can make a very positive contribution to the debate.
2016 therefore draws to a close on a very positive note. Now the challenge for 2017 is to translate all these excellent intentions into action.
A more resilient agri-food sector within a stronger, fairer food chain will benefit not just every farmer, but every single EU citizen. I look forward to working on this issue with Commissioners Vestager and Bieńkowska, and I am confident that 2017 can be the year things start to really move.
Council press conference with the Slovak presidency
High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain