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Actions to improve functioning of the food supply chain in the EU

Posted by benjamin-nicolau en octubre 30, 2009

Commission proposes concrete actions to improve functioning of the food supply chain in the EU

The Commission has agreed a Communication that aims to improve the functioning of the food supply chain in Europe. The recent sharp decline in agricultural commodity prices alongside persistently high consumer food prices has raised concerns on the efficiency of this crucial sector of the European economy. Improving commercial relationships between actors of the chain will be a significant step towards a more efficient food supply chain ultimately benefitting all actors of the chain and consumers alike.
“It is very important for the actors of the food supply chain, consumers and policy makers to increase the transparency of prices along the supply chain. The new European monitoring tool on food prices is an important step forward in this direction.” Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.
Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, commented: “As recent developments in the dairy market show, there is too often a disconnection between the price the farmer gets and what the consumer pays in the shops. Together with national authorities, we will redouble our efforts to ensure that the supply chain works effectively from farm to fork. I will ask the High Level Experts’ Group on Milk to take an in-depth look at the conclusions of this report and to recommend action where necessary. We need to ensure that our dairy farmers can make a decent living both now and in the future. And the same is true for producers of other farm products.”
Today’s Communication proposes concrete policy actions at Member States and EU levels to improve the functioning of the food supply chain in Europe.
The food supply chain encompasses important sectors– agricultural, food processing industry and distribution – that together make more than 7% of European employment. These sectors have a direct impact on all citizens, since food represents on average 16% of households’ expenditures. It is thus essential that the food supply chain functions well to provide quality and safe food products at affordable prices.
Food price developments have been raising concerns on the functioning of the food supply chain for some time. The sharp decline in agricultural commodity prices of 2008 has failed so far to fully translate into lower food prices at producer and consumer levels. This has become particularly evident in the dairy sector over recent months.
The Communication identifies significant tensions in contractual relations between actors of the chain, stemming from their diversity and differences in bargaining power. It also highlights the lack of transparency of prices along the food chain as well as the increased volatility of commodity prices. Finally, it shows that the internal market for food is still fragmented across products and Member States.

In order to overcome the challenges identified and improve the functioning of the chain, the Commission proposes to:
– Promote sustainable and market-based relationships between stakeholders of the food supply chain:
– The Commission will work with Member States to better identify unfair contractual practices stemming from asymmetries in bargaining power, to increase the awareness of actors on the issue and to facilitate notification of potential abuses;
– In close cooperation with National Competition Authorities, the Commission will continue to closely monitor developments of competition issues within the chain.
– Increase transparency in the food supply chain:
– The Commission publishes today a first version of the European food prices monitoring tool that will contribute to better understand how food prices evolve and calls for Member States to set up web-based and easily accessible food retail price comparison services;
– The Commission also sets a series of measures to improve the oversight of agricultural commodity derivatives market with the view to contain volatility and speculation.
– Foster the integration of the internal market for food and the competitiveness of all sectors of the food supply chain:
– The Commission will review selected environmental standards and origins labelling schemes that may impede cross-border trade;
– The Commission will assess measures to address the practices of territorial supply constraints by which suppliers “force” retailers to source locally.
– In the primary sector specifically, it should be investigated how farmers’ bargaining position can be strengthened, for example by the creation of producer organisations, while respecting the rules of fair competition. This could be done, for example, both in the context of the Rural Development policy and in the broader context of the post 2013 CAP
The Commission will report on the advancement of these proposals by the end of 2010. Since the involvement of stakeholders and Member States is essential to the success of these initiatives, it proposes to expand the membership, status and mandate of the High-Level Group on competitiveness of the agro-food industry to create a forum of discussion for the food supply chain.
This Communication is the outcome of an inter-service Task Force, led by Directorate Generals AGRI and ECFIN, into which the services of Commissioners Kroes and Kuneva contributed actively.

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EU Bookshop Digital Library goes live

Posted by benjamin-nicolau en octubre 15, 2009

EU Bookshop Digital Library goes live – All the EU publications in one place

12 million scanned pages in more than 110 000 EU publications are available free of charge for download in the EU Bookshop Digital Library. Launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair on the 16 October, it offers all publications edited by the Publications Office on behalf of the EU institutions, agencies and other bodies since 1952.

The Publications Office’s archives have long represented a veritable treasure trove of European history. Publications such as the address delivered by Mr Jean Monnet, President of the High Authority before the Common Assembly at the first session of September 1952 the General Report on the activities of the Community in French from 1953 can once again see the virtual light of day through the Publications Office Digital Library. New publications are added every day. In the words of Leonard Orban, Commissioner for multilingualism: “The digital library frees the memory of the European Union tied to paper since its beginning. The millions of pages now accessible to everyone in the 23 official languages demonstrate the continued commitment of the European Union to preserve and encourage the history of the Union in its linguistic diversity.”

The Publications Office Digital Library was a response to a growing demand to digitise out-of-print publications. In 2007, the Publications Office launched a PDF-on-demand service, wherein users could request publications to be retrieved from the archives and scanned as needed. The demand was so high that within six months the service was saturated. To better serve the users, it was decided to scan the industrial volumes of the entire archive.

The result – less than two years later – is an electronic library of more than 14 million pages of web-optimised PDFs available to the public free of charge. It consists of the 12 million scanned pages of historic publications and about 2 million pages of recent publications. At the rate of 1600 new publications per year, EU Bookshop is a valuable information source for citizens, journalists, education professionals, students, librarians, publishers, and anybody interested in Europe, in about 50 languages, including the possibility of ordering printed copies.

EU Bookshop content is also to become accessible via Europeana, a digitisation project of many prominent national European libraries and archives. The EU Bookshop will thus complement the national Europeana collections from the EU Institutions’ point of view.

Taking into account the timeframe of the project and the quality of the results, the Publications Office’s digital library is one of the most ambitious projects of its type in the world:

– Publications available on EU Bookshop total more than 110 000;

– 12 million pages were scanned between February 2008 and September 2009;

– The digital library represents more than 370 corporate EU institutional authors;

– About 50 languages are represented: all official EU languages and e.g. Russian and Chinese ;

– At peak production, more than 1.4 million pages were scanned per month.

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