Farmers’ union calls for grocery adjudicator to be extended

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has requested that the Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA) be extended to cover more of the supply chain. 

The news comes after the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy agreed to launch an industry call for evidence of unfair trading practices with the statutory review of the role of the GCA.

NFU president Meurig Raymond has said that the industry must recognise the success that the GCA has had within the retail sector when it came into force three years ago. Its purpose is to enforce the Grocery Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) covering the 10 biggest UK retailers.

“The GCA’s recent survey results showed that 62% of suppliers had experienced an issue with the GSCOP code, compared to 79% in 2014,” commented Raymond. “There has also been a significant increase in written supply agreements over the last three years, rising by 12% since 2014.

“The NFU believes the power of the GCA’s presence has enabled this change and therefore this way of working now needs to be replicated throughout the whole supply chain. Sustainability, risk management and volatility management must be the food supply chain’s core principles for British farming businesses to thrive. Unfair trading practices limit these principles of success and lead to smaller parties, like our British farmers, losing out. This must stop.”

Raymond added that the union would like to see agri-sector voluntary codes of practice. This would encourage primary producers that the supply chain was not abusing its power and position over that of British farmers.

“The NFU is also calling for the ornamental sector to be brought under the GSCOP legislation and for the turnover threshold to be reduced, to widen the scope of businesses regulated by the code and adjudicator,” said the president.

“British farming is the bedrock of the food and drink industry – worth £108 billion – providing jobs for 3.9 million people growing the raw ingredients for UK food and drink. We need to create a supply system that is fair, transparent and has benefits for everyone in the food chain.”

Meanwhile, NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie said that the review of the GCA was an “important step” in assessing the performance of the adjudicator’s ability to enforce GSCOP. “Historically, unfair trading practices have dogged the grocery sector, and this has harmed both farmers and shoppers,” he said. “This review should give us a clear picture of how well the GCA is fulfilling its task of preventing the unfair practices which are outlined in the GSCOP.”

Commenting on the Call for Evidence, Bowie said: “This will be an opportunity for food producers to outline where they think unfair practice continues, and to what extent unfair trading practices in the supply chain are affecting farmers and shoppers. I would urge anyone with evidence on this to respond to the government’s call for evidence.”

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