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Grocery adjudicator appointment ‘an important step’

By Mike Stones , 23-Jan-2013

The appointment of Christine Tacon as the UK’s first groceries code adjudicator is “an important step in the battle to ensure fairness across the supply chain”, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU) and others.

The appointment of Tacon was ‘an important step in the battle to ensure fairness across the supply chain’, said the NFU

The appointment of Tacon was ‘an important step in the battle to ensure fairness across the supply chain’, said the NFU

Tacon – who was appointed on Monday (January 21) – will be responsible for enforcing the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP), which regulates dealings between the 10 largest supermarkets with an annual turnover of more than £1bn and their direct suppliers.

NFU head of food and farming Phil Hudson said the appointment would help to ensure fairness across the supply chain”. He said:“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.”

Hudson said he looked forward to discussing with Tacon the union’s concerns about the way the supply chain operates.

Quality of judgements

Andrew Opie, the British Retail Consortium’s food director, said the most important thing was not the identity of the individual but the quality of her judgements and how the role is developed.

“The key thing will be to administer a system that is fair to all parties and does not add unnecessary burdens to retailers and the supply chain more generally,” said Opie. “It’s important that she demonstrates neutrality and objectivity – they will be essential qualities.

John Walker, national chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said he hoped small businesses would feel “less vulnerable” as a result of the appointment.

“Small suppliers will now have somewhere to take their complaint to – anonymously if need be – if the principles of the groceries code are being breached,” said Walker. “Small suppliers will understandably want swift and firm action to be taken if their complaint is upheld, so that fairness is once again restored on the groceries market.”

‘Step towards a fairer supply chain’

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) welcomed the appointment as “another welcome step towards a fairer supply chain”.

FPB head of policy Alex Jackman said: “This is an incredibly important position for the grocery supply chain in the years to come, and particularly for how this new watchdog beds in during its first 12 months.

“We hope Christine’s appointment will introduce a new spirit of trust and co-operation between some of the UK’s biggest companies, and the army of small suppliers who work for them, in doing so helping to keep the nation’s store cupboards full.”

Terry Jones, director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation, said: Her experience and understanding of the whole supply chain means that 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.”

Jonathan Bye, ceo of Seabrook Crisps, told FoodManufacture.co.uk the adjudicator could "help ensure the positive cut and thrust of manufacturer and retailer negotiations is fair to all".

Small to medium-sized enterprises were the lifeblood of UK food manufacturing and continued to drive growth and innovation to everyone’s benefit, he said. "To do this, they need both the continued support of the retailers but also a level of protection in a fiercely competitive market to ensure a level playing field for all." 

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