The appointment of Christine Tacon as GCA had significantly improved the trading practices of retailers, through her clarity and interpretation of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP), said NFU president Meurig Raymond.
Raymond called for this way of working to be replicated throughout the whole food supply chain.
“The NFU believes more retailers, foodservice and food manufacturers should fall under the scope of GSCOP to ensure the principles of fair trading are inherent across the whole supply chain,” said Raymond.
“The increasing consolidation of suppliers and processors within the supply chain, in turn reducing competition and increasing buying power, leads to a power imbalance within the supply chain. This has led to unfair trading practices to be pushed onto producers.”
The GCA had to remain independent, added Raymond, as many businesses had increased their market power, which they have been able to assert over suppliers.
The review followed calls from the Groceries Code Action Network – a coalition of non-governmental organisations, unions and food groups – for the GCA’s powers to be strengthened in November last year.
The group said that without the power to support better trading practices further along food supply chains, problems experienced by direct suppliers – such as missed payments or unexpected costs – were passed on. That put others at risk of losing out, or going out of business.
Raymond also called for the agri-sector voluntary codes of practice – such as the Dairy and Livestock Voluntary Code – made compulsory and overseen by the GCA to “give them more teeth”.
“This will give primary producers the confidence that the supply chain is not abusing their buying power and position over that of the British farmer,” added Raymond.
‘Abusing their buying power’
However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) urged the government to reject calls to extend the remit of the GCA.
It argued that extra powers would be a departure from the principles of the GCA, which was created to protect customers, not suppliers.
BRC director of food Andrew Opie said: “The investment retailers have made in areas like research and development, reformulation and range of products shows that the original desire by the Competition Commission to protect innovation has been met.
“We believe the adjudicator system has worked well and that Christine Tacon has been very successful in bringing the code to life. But you cannot just bolt on a whole new set of requirements, which have a complete departure from the reason the adjudicator was set up.”
Meanwhile, be sure not to miss Food Manufacture’s exclusive interview with Terry Jones, director general of the NFU, in February’s issue of the magazine.