Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon said that calls for the code to include 8,000 suppliers would need a significant change to legislation, and would not address the issue of farmgate prices – a matter recently raised by the House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee.
Speaking at a Westminster Food & Nutrition seminar last month, she said: “Under my current remit, I work with 10 retailers on a very close basis to get them to improve.
“If the role was extended to those 8,000 suppliers, you’re talking about a totally different scale of job.”
‘Largely about price’
Tacon added: “I think many of the calls to extend my remit are actually coming from indirect suppliers to the retailers, and it’s largely about price.
“The EFRA committee asked me to give evidence about what I was doing to ensure the stability of farmgate prices, which rather threw me, because I have nothing to do with price or farmers in my remit – but that is where it is coming from.”
Appointed Groceries Code Adjudicator in 2013, Tacon is responsible for the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which regulates interactions between the 10 largest supermarkets and their direct suppliers.
Tacon stressed that any change in remit was a matter for the Competition and Markets Authority. She also explained that a statutory review of her role was ongoing.
Practicalities of extending the code
David Lowe, partner at legal firm Gowling WLG, told the seminar that he shared Tacon’s concerns about the practicalities of extending the code, but could see how it might be applied to “primary processors”.
However, he cautioned: “The big issue for the major suppliers is that they would potentially be stuck in the middle between retailers and the primary producers, and be squeezed even more than they are at the moment.
“So, we need to be careful to avoid that unintended consequences of putting further pressure on what is already a fragile supply chain.”
The annual Groceries Code Adjudicator Conference, which will be held in London on June 27, will report results of a YouGov supplier satisfaction survey.