In 2010, the European Commission set up a high level forum for a better functioning food supply chain to help develop policy in the food and drink sector as well as contribute to a better functioning food supply chain.
What is the forum for a better functioning food supply chain?
The first high level forum concluded in 2014. In 2015, under the leadership of Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the Commission reiterated the importance of the work of the forum and decided to launch a new generation of the forum. The new mandate was set from 1 June 2015 - 31 December 2019. It aimed to continue the constructive dialogue among European public and private stakeholders about key issues, as well as new challenges affecting the competitiveness of the food supply chain.
The forum is chaired by the representative of the Commission (Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs). It has 50 members and includes the following actors
- 28 national authorities responsible for the food sector at ministerial level, representing all EU countries
- 22 representatives of relevant stakeholders and civil society selected through a public call for applications. They include
- organisations actively involved in the agro-food industry, and in the trade and distribution of agro-food products in the EU
- EU umbrella associations and federations representing agriculture, food processing, trade and the distribution of agro-food products in the EU
- non-governmental organisations, with expertise related to the food supply chain
The high level forum (2015-2019)
During the new 4-year mandate, the forum was asked to assist the Commission with the development of industrial policy in the agri-food sector and with the development of related policy measures, which contribute to a better functioning food supply chain. The mandate comprised, among others, the following topics
- competitiveness of the food chain and small and medium-sized enterprises
- business-to-business trading practices
- internal market, market access, trade and prices
- sustainability and social dimension
- innovation and future challenges influencing the competitiveness of the food supply chain
- dual food quality
In 2019, the forum adopted its final report.
List of members of the high level forum for a better functioning food supply chain (2015-2019)
In addition to its 50 members, the European Parliament (represented by the internal market and consumer protection committee secretariat) and Norway participated in the forum's discussions with observer status.
How does it work?
Since its first mandate, the forum’s work has been organised around its yearly plenary meetings. As the forum's political body, the plenary can adopt the forum's work programme and adapt it at any time during the mandate. It is empowered to give political guidance and steer the work of the forum. The forum's plenary is responsible for the yearly validation of the work.
The 'sherpa group', a preparatory group of the forum, lays the groundwork for the main forum meeting. The sherpa group hosts debates and develops position papers as well as opinions with the support of the forum's secretariat. This group is composed of high representatives of each member of the forum and meets 3-4 times per year.
See the minutes from the sherpa meetings
To effectively address several complex topics, the forum has created 4 expert sub-groups to examine specific questions
- digitalisation in the food supply chain
- the single market for food
- food price composition indicator
- private labels
The different sub-groups were composed of members of the forum who have the necessary expertise and expressed their interest in participating in the work on these specific issues. The sub-groups had the mandate to foster debate, identify challenges and solutions and report to the plenary and the sherpa group where appropriate.
The forum mandated and facilitated a project led by the Joint Research Centre (JRC). It aims to develop a harmonised approach to sampling, testing and data interpretation to improve food product comparative tests and tackle the issue of perceived quality differences of products offered under the same brand and packaging in different EU countries. The methodology was finalised and was used to carry out an EU-wide testing campaign in 2018. In addition, the forum
- has been the birthplace of discussions on unfair trading practices that lead to an EU directive on unfair trading practices in the food supply chain (UTPs)
- established a list of barriers and solutions for the single market for food in Europe
- initiated the first European price composition indicator for food products, the 'FoodEuro'. This forum initiative will improve price transparency in the food supply chain
- provided policy recommendations on differentiation of identically branded food products
- intensified debates and provided inputs on new opportunities in the food supply chain. In particular, on digitalisation, sustainability, private labels, social responsibility and innovation
- The FoodEuro project
- Pilot project assessing the quality of products in the single market (further information will be added soon)
Forum process and operation
As far as possible, the forum adopts decisions, opinions, recommendations or reports by consensus. In the event of a vote, a simple majority of the members decide the result. Dissenting opinions or abstentions are reflected in the proceedings of the group at the request of the members concerned.
Outside these bodies, the forum’s work is conducted daily with the support of the secretariat operated by the Commission. Together they guarantee a continuous flow of information and sharing of ideas to keep forum activities close to the current issues affecting the food supply chain.
The high level forum (2010-2014) - first mandate
From 2010 until 2014, the forum implemented the recommendations of the high level group on the competitiveness of the agro-food industry that it was set up to replace. The forum identified new challenges affecting the competitiveness of the agro-food industry and advised the Commission on how to tackle them.
Under the 2010-2014 mandate, the forum carried out, the following actions among others
- facilitated the launch of a voluntary code of conduct, supply chain initiative, which aims to eliminate unfair business-to-business trading practice in the food supply chain
- encouraged the establishment of the social dialogue committee for the food and drink industry
- contributed to the improvement of the European food price monitoring tool through an expert platform
- discussed ways to improve the sustainability of the food system
- was consulted on the fitness check for the food chain
- discussed emerging challenges such as food taxes
The forum concluded with the final report of 2014.