On the second day of the meeting, agriculture ministers focused on the resilience of the food system and on ensuring the strength of the food supply chain. Council conclusions on a new contingency plan for ensuring food supply and security in times of crisis were approved unanimously.
Ministers also discussed unfair trading practices in the food supply chain and focused on the Commission's proposal to prevent deforestation. The Council, chaired for the last time by the Slovenian Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Jože Podgoršek, also took note of the preparation of the strategic plans for the common agricultural policy.
Agriculture ministers unanimously approved the Council conclusions on a new contingency plan for ensuring food supply and security in times of crisis. The plan was prepared by the European Commission as part of the 'Farm to Fork' strategy. It will help the EU i tackle challenges such as extreme weather events, plant and animal health issues and the shortage of key inputs such as fertilisers, energy and labour. In its conclusions, the Council welcomes the proposed plan and stresses the need to prepare the food system for potential risks and to build on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic in responding to future crises. In particular, member states stress the importance of the internal market and consider that the cross-border mobility of people, goods, services and capital should be preserved in the event of a crisis. They also support the establishment of a permanent mechanism to monitor the EU's level of preparedness for threats to food security.
The conclusions reflects the member states' commitment to protect food supply in Europe against potential threats. Based on the lessons learned from the pandemic, we can ensure that our response to future crises will be coordinated at the EU level and will allow for the uninterrupted flow of people, goods and services across borders.
Jože PodgoršekMinister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Ministers also held an orientation debate on unfair trading practices in agriculture. Unfair trading practices between businesses violate the rules of business conduct, causing imbalances in the food supply chain between small and large operators. This often leaves farmers and small businesses in a subordinate position with no bargaining power. "Improving the position of farmers in the food supply chain is one of the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency, and for me personally, because as a former Food Supply Chain Relationships Ombudsman I monitor the functioning of the supply chains and the relationships between stakeholders with particular attention, with a focus on the position of farmers as the weakest negotiator," said Minister Podgoršek. The main tool in the fight against unfair trading practices are the EU Directive on unfair trading practices in the food supply chain and the common agricultural policy, which will strengthen the position of farmers in the supply chain and boost the competitiveness of the agricultural and food sector by improving its bargaining power.
The European Commission presented the proposed regulation on the making available on the EU market and export from the EU of certain products associated with deforestation and forest degradation. The main driver of global deforestation and forest degradation is the expansion of agricultural land to produce commodities such as soy, cattle, palm oil, wood, cocoa or coffee. As a major importer of these commodities, the EU can reduce its impact on deforestation and forest degradation worldwide by allowing only deforestation-free and legal products on the EU market. "I welcome the proposed regulation on deforestation-free products. As forests are of exceptional importance for our common future, it is my hope and desire that by introducing mandatory rules for operators exporting commodities that cause deforestation to the EU, we will contribute to preserving forests on a global scale," said Minister Podgoršek.
Ministers also took note of the state of play of the preparation of the CAP strategic plans in member states. The deadline for the submission of the plans to the Commission is 1 January 2022. The ministers also discussed the situation on the pig meat market and the rising prices of fertilisers and feed raw materials. The Slovenian Presidency presented the conclusions of the high-level BIOEAST Foresight Conference, which it organised together with Hungary at the end of September.