Professionalism across the supply chain had increased since Christine Tacon was handed the role, NFU president Meurig Raymond told the IFE conference at the ExCel centre in London yesterday (March 23).
“If you go back 10, five years, deals were done on verbal contracts and shakes of hands,” he said.
“There is far more professionalism now and she [Christine Tacon] is an important tool in the Groceries Code where if someone does step outside [the regulation] she’s there to investigate.”
Her overall success should be judged on behaviour change within the supply chain, including a reduction in fear among suppliers to raise cases with the GCA, Raymond added.
“There is still that fear among processors that they could get delisted throughout the supply chain for raising complaints,” he said. “We would like to see farmers being able to go and see Christine Tacon without that fear.”
Speaking at the same event, Terry Jones, director general of the Provision Trade Federation, also praised Tacon’s impact on the industry.
“I think she has got a very good handle on the areas she needs to look at and has made good inroads,” he said.
“In less than two years – with limited resources – she’s launched an investigation and that should be applauded. Could she still do more? Of course but that needs the support of the suppliers.”
Earlier this year, Tacon launched her first investigation into Tesco’s relationship with its suppliers.
- February 4 2010: Groceries Supply Code of Practice comes into force
- January 2013: Groceries Code Adjudicator appointed
- February 2015: First investigation launched with Tesco
- February 2015: GCA will be able to impose fines of up to 1% of annual turnover on retailers
Jones added that Tacon should open up dialogue with businesses to give them the confidence to approach her if they experienced problems.
However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) questioned whether there was a problem with suppliers being afraid of approaching the GCA or if it was just perceived that there was.
Andrew Opie, BRC director of food and sustainability, praised Tacon for opening up dialogue between suppliers and retailers, but said she hadn’t changed retail culture.
“The important thing to remember is GSCOP [Groceries Supply Code of Practice] came in in 2010 so we’ve been operating under that scheme for five years now,” he said.
“Aside from opened up dialogue and an opportunity to look at some of those issues, I don’t think anything has changed in terms of compliance or culture within the retailers.”