A member of the Flemish parliament, Joris Nachtergaele (N-VA), has called on supermarkets to be more transparent on their pricing of food stuffs, especially essentials like meat and milk.
According to the trade magazine Vilt, which broke the story, dairy farmers currently receive about 35c for every litre of milk their cows produce. By the time the milk appears on the supermarket shelves, however, the price the consumer is asked to pay has shot up to between 65c and €1.31.
“The price at the checkout is often a multiple of what farmers receive. As a consumer, it is important to get that information when you have to make a choice in the store," Nachtergaele told Vilt.
At the same time, meat and vegetable producers are also being subjected to price pressure, despite the high quality of products delivered. Prime offenders identified in that case are the frozen food producers of West Flanders. The large quantities of produce they order allows them to squeeze producer prices to the limit, which always means downwards.
“The price at the checkout is often a multiple of what farmers receive. As a consumer, it is important to get that information when you have to make a choice in the store shelves," said Nachtergaele.
So the problem is not limited to the fruit and vegetable sector, but also to meat. Last week there were negotiations between producers and deep-freeze retailers – a sector where companies in West Flanders are strong, faced with consumer demand fuelled by working parents looking for family meals that don’t take an afternoon to cook slowly.
But the growers, despite having reached an agreement, are far from satisfied.
“The fact that an agreement was reached at the beginning of this week does not change the weak position in which all farmers find themselves in the food chain,” said Nachtergaele.
According to the MP, at least part of the problem would be solved by obliging supermarkets to show accurate price representations at the customer-interface, namely on the shelf or in the cooler display.
What that might look like can be seen from the system currently operating in France – a country where farmers have much more power and influence than their Flemish or Belgian colleagues.
“With the EGAlim system, among other things, the price that the farmer receives for the product is posted in the supermarket with our southern neighbours,” Nachtergaele said. “I am convinced that people are more likely to choose products that they know will give the farmer a fair price.”