Farmers and distributors agree on urgent measures in wake of protests

Belgian farmers, distributors and government officials agreed on Friday to a series of urgent measures in response to the demands of protesting farmers.

In the wake of widespread farmer protests in Belgium and beyond, a task force on agri-food was set up and held its first meeting three weeks ago. 

On Friday, the country's Agriculture and Economy ministers and its state secretary for Consumer Protection reported that an agreement had been reached on a series of urgent price measures, a ban on selling at a loss and controls.

Price thresholds and tighter controls

One of the measures is to fix prices through the development of indicators. Thresholds will be set for each sector, and if the price observatory finds that a threshold is exceeded, stakeholders will come together to provide appropriate responses. 

The Price Observatory will also be strengthened, and its studies on price transmission and margins will be refined.

"This package of measures is an important step towards ensuring a decent income for farmers through fair trade practices"

The task force also agreed to strengthen the ban on selling at a loss and to increase the visibility of Belgian products by supporting their promotion and marketing. 

The country's economic inspectorate also agreed to tighten controls on food labelling and compliance with mandatory origin labelling, as well as to facilitate the submission of anonymous complaints.

Further measures under negotiation

A number of measures have also been put on the table for further negotiation, including a tightening of the ban on certain unfair practices such as delisting, or threatening to remove products from the shelves in order to make excessive demands.

A ban on the automatic imposition of damages and fines without justification also remains on the table, as does a ban on refusing to renegotiate contracts when the seller faces unforeseen circumstances. 

"It was important to work with all stakeholders on measures that could be implemented before the elections," said Economy minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne. "This package of measures is an important step towards ensuring a decent income for farmers through fair trade practices," he said.



A tractor attacks a police barricade during a farmers' protest in Brussels on 26 February 2024 © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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