Grocery code boss ‘should have her role extended’

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

The role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon, should be extended, it has been argued
The role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon, should be extended, it has been argued

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The government’s review of the Groceries Code Adjudicator’s (GCA’s) role and remit, announced last month, has been welcomed by a coalition of non-governmental organisations, unions and food groups, which has called for the GCA’s powers to be strengthened.

The announcement of the review comes three years after the GCA was set up to regulate fair treatment of suppliers by retailers on consumers’ behalf.

Now, the Groceries Code Action Network (GCAN) wants to see the GCA gain more power to tackle abuses throughout the supply chain.

All 23 member organisations of the GCAN applauded code adjudicator Christine Tacon’s work to encourage and enforce fair dealing, but said more could be done.

Breached the code

In January this year, Tacon’s first investigation found Tesco had breached the code by delaying millions of pounds’ worth of payments to suppliers.

While the GCA’s annual survey, published in June, reported an improvement in supermarkets’ behaviour toward the firms supplying them, unfair trading practices remained a real issue and half of respondents said they were still too scared to report breaches for fear of losing business.

To address this, the GCAN called for the watchdog’s remit to be extended to give Tacon the power to support better trading practices further along food supply chains.

The group expressed concern that if not, issues experienced by direct suppliers – such as missed payments or unexpected costs – were just being passed on and put others at risk of losing, or going out of business.

‘Clamping down on unfair dealing’

“The GCA has already done important work to improve the grocery sector for consumers by clamping down on unfair dealing and encouraging the UK’s top supermarkets to improve relations with the firms who supply them,”​ said Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation.

“However, the Fairtrade Foundation is concerned that farmers on the ground are still bearing the major brunt of unfair trading, particularly those in developing countries, where the GCA currently has no authority to intervene.”

Gidney called on the GCA’s powers to be extended to ensure fair trading practices, such as paying suppliers on time and in full, were supported at every level of the supply chain.

Edd Colbert, campaign and research manager for Feedback, said: “Unfair trading practices lead to overproduction due to increased risk for suppliers, ultimately causing good food to go to waste.”

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