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The advisory group on quality discussed mountain products and short supply chains

The advisory group on quality met on February 19th. The agenda was centred on the implementation of the new quality package, especially regulation 1151/2012 on quality schemes.

The group dedicated two hours to the presentation of the IPTS study on labelling of mountain products published in January by DG AGRI. Following the presentation of results, members discussed provisions under preparation for the delegated act. The main points addressed were:

– animal feed: two opposite positions were defended on the interpretation of the word “essentially”. For Germans and Austrians, essentially would mean “at least 50%”. For others, the spirit of the legislation is to locate as much as possible supply chains in mountain areas, with 70% of feed at least coming from mountain areas (for ruminants) with possibilities of derogation only when natural conditions require.
– place of processing: there also, partisans of a very flexible approach of the place of processing debated with those which, like Euromontana, consider that genuine mountain supply chains should be protected and the maximum possible added value should be retained in mountain areas, with derogations applying only for production stages which cannot, for technical reasons, be located in mountain areas;
– legal protection: the group discussed questions regarding the protection of the term “mountain” in association with the name of a product (milk, butter…) and that of related words (alps, carpathians… or names of specific regions like “black forest”).The European Commission indicated they had no intention to edit guidelines for the moment and invited to analyse protection in relation with the “consumer information” package
– relation between quality regulation and consumer information regulation: a recent study by BEUC demonstrates that, when consumers are interested in the origin of products, they are interested in location of all production stages. This element must be taken into account when defining implementing rules for mountain products.
The presentation used is available [here].

The Commission specified the calendar for adoption of the delegated act, which should occur at the earliets at the end of the year.

The group also treated different points regarding:
– the preparation of a report on products of island farming;
– impact assessment on the mandatory labelling of origin of meat from sheep, poultry and pigs (labelling of fresh meat and labelling of products including meat as ingredient);
– marketing standards.

The Commission also presented the state of play of negotiations regarding rural development support to quality (article 17 and article 36.e. of the draft regulation).

The afternoon was dedicated to the presentation of results from the study on Short food supply chains and local products. The slideshow is available [here].

The group mainly discussed the following questions:

– the object of the potential label targeting short/local products and the limited interest of such a label for direct sales from producer to consumer;
– the distinction between local systems (which imply the intervention of several intermediaries in supply chains confined to a given geographical area) and short supply chains (defined by the use of a minimum or null number of intermediaries).
– the risks of confusion of consumers considering the multiplicity of questions addressed in this discussion: quality, fair trade, short supply chains, local products…
– the type of unique intermediary that could be accepted: should supermarkets, which are sometimes implicated in short supply chains be accepted?
– the terms of relationship between producers and retailers.

We will communicate more widely on this study when the text will be published by the Joint Research Centre, probably around March of April. The Commission will assemble the contents of the discussions conducted since 2011 on local food systems and short food supply chains in a report addressing the opportunities to create specific labelling for the 4th of January 2014.

The next advisory group is scheduled on June, 25th, 2013.

28 February 2013

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