Farming body welcomes Groceries Adjudicator

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has welcomed the appointment of a supermarket ombudsman to oversee the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP), which governs the way that the UK’s 10 largest retailers treat their suppliers.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills announced yesterday that it had appointed former head of The Co-operative Group’s farming business, Christine Tacon, to the role of Groceries Code Adjudicator, subject to approval by the BIS Select Committee.

It said that, as adjudicator, Tacon would be responsible for investigating breaches of the code and would have "wide ranging powers" to effect remedies where breaches were found, including naming and shaming offending retailers, issuing recommendations to solve disputes and impose fines in "extreme cases".

NFU head of food and farming Phil Hudson said the appointment of an adjudicator with the necessary ‘teeth’ to curb abuses of power was an "important step forward", which would provide reassurance for farmers.

"We lobbied government for an independent adjudicator who can enforce the GSCOP, and can ensure a level playing field across the supply chain, and we are pleased to see this has come to fruition. Now Ms Tacon has been appointed, we look forward to her taking up the post and quickly getting to grips with the issues affecting our members. Once she has formally taken up her role, we will look to meet her to discuss our concerns over the way in which the supply chain operates," he said.

Tacon, who was with The Co-operative for 11 years, has an MBA from Cranfield and was awarded a CBE for services to agriculture in 2004. She chairs the BBC Rural Affairs Committee and has worked on a number of government taskforces on issues related to food and environment.

Tacon said: "Being the Groceries Code Adjudicator is a significant responsibility, and I am honoured to have been given the chance to make a permanent and enduring difference to the groceries sector.

"Coming from a commercial background, I am sure that if we can increase trust between retailers and their direct suppliers, it will lead to greater efficiency and can only have a beneficial impact on the rest of the supply chain."

Announcing the appointment, Swinson said: "I congratulate Christine Tacon on her appointment as Groceries Code Adjudicator. This is an incredibly important position in the retail groceries sector, making sure that large supermarkets treat their suppliers fairly and lawfully. Ms Tacon has a wide range of experience in the food, retail and farming industry and her appointment is a real milestone. Her knowledge of the sector will be of huge benefit, and I’m sure will be crucial in making the Groceries Code Adjudicator a positive and powerful contributor to the groceries industry."

The decision has been welcomed by industry. Terry Jones, director of communication for the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: "FDF congratulates Christine Tacon on her appointment as the first Groceries Code Adjudicator. Her experience and understanding of the whole supply chain means she is well-placed to take on this important role. We are looking forward to working with her to raise awareness with suppliers of the Adjudicator’s role, developing guidance and, ultimately, supporting investigations."

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