Groceries Supply Code of Practice under discussion

Suppliers to the multiple retailers were now “protected and represented” according to the new Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA), but others have their doubts, a forum in Westminster heard this week.

The effectiveness of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP), which attempts to protect suppliers from large retailers, was discussed at the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum at the Caledonian Club in London yesterday (3 February).

The forum, chaired by former Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Business, Innovation and Skills, Baroness Wilcox, discussed the progression of GSCOP, introduced in 2010. According to Christine Tacon, GCA, suppliers were now protected, and the code was “in the spirit of fair dealing and not passing risk down the chain”.

The scheme has been welcomed by the retail sector, according to Michael Fletcher, trading director at the Co-operative: “There is no ambiguity in the code of practice and how retailers should operate – there is now very little grey area. This is a reference point where disagreements can be settled by the code.”

Suppliers are also happier, said the National Farmers’ Union’s head of farming Phil Hudson: “It’s good for farmers, good for suppliers and good for retailers. It’s about trust, and ensuring anonymity of suppliers.”

However, commentator and author Tristram Stuart was sceptical of supplier anonymity. He said: “If people report abuses, they are scared they will be delisted.”

He added that he was concerned about the effectiveness of the code in other areas: “There are a number of adjustments to retailer forecasts at the last minute. The confirmed order is different to the forecast and the cost ends up in the hands of the supplier – this is clearly in breach of the code.”

Professor Paul Dobson, head of Norwich Business School, suggested suppliers needed more training to be able to understand and utilise GSCOP.

He said: “How aware are suppliers of the code? Training should be arranged, and it needs to be known to whom you go to get information on this.”

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