As part of the reform discussions concerning the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), some members of the European Parliament (EP) have suggested an exemption from competition law for farm production. The members of the European Competition Network (ECN), a grouping of national competition authorities in the EU plus the EC, have expressed concerns about this and on 15 January 2013 published a joint resolution on the issue. This strongly expresses their view that competition law should apply in full in all sectors in the EU, including food and agriculture.
The resolution points out that competition law does not ban all types of cooperation between competitors. It goes on to encourage farmers to form co-operatives to counter large buyers (supermarkets etc.) in the EU, stating, “Where appropriate, farmers should be encouraged to form entities or organisations to create efficiencies in order to respond to market challenges in a pro-competitive way.” Although aimed at the politically sensitive farming sector, this general principle applies to suppliers throughout the food chain.