European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

The European Commission has announced new guidelines on the joint selling of olive oil, beef and veal, and arable crops. The aim of the guidelines is to clarify how and under which conditions European farmers can cooperate to jointly sell olive oil, beef, veal, and arable crops.

The goal of EU antitrust policy is to promote fair competition between different operators i.e. manufacturers, suppliers, or firms selling a product on the market.

Under EU antitrust law, there are two main rules in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Article 101 of the treaty prohibits agreements between two or more operators which would restrict competition.

An example could be the creation of cartels among rival companies who fix prices at a certain level in order to share a market, and restrict competition from other companies.

Under Article 102 of the same treaty, companies that dominate a certain market cannot abuse their position to the detriment of consumers by charging unreasonable prices, limiting production, or refusing to innovate.

The new guidelines, announced in a press release published on November 27, 2015, set out three “efficiency-based” derogations to EU antitrust rules that allow producers of olive oil, beef and veal, and arable crops to jointly sell and set prices, volumes and other terms for their goods through recognized organizations, and under certain conditions.

According to these conditions, by joining such an organization, farmers must be able to benefit from supporting activities other than sales. Such activities include storage, transport and distribution.

Also, volumes of goods jointly marketed cannot exceed a certain threshold. For olive oil, this is set at 20 percent of the relevant market. The guidelines are also meant for competition and judicial authorities in the EU member states so they can apply these rules in a consistent manner.

The publication of the new guidelines follows a public consultation on a draft text released by the European Commission, as well as consultation with the European Parliament and relevant authorities in each of the EU member states.

The EU’s olive oil, beef and veal, and arable crops markets have an annual worth of more than €80 billion ($85 billion). The EU is the world’s leading producer, consumer and exporter of olive oil.

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