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3 August 2012 | Kamalpreet Badasha
The Green Party’s policy committee has called for the grocery adjudicator to be given the power to fine anti-competitive retailers.
A Bill to create the organisation to enforce the Groceries Supply Code of Practice is currently passing through Parliament, although its current scope and remit is yet to be finalised.
“The Grocery Adjudicator is a step forward but from what I understand fines won’t be a part of the remit,” Green Party policy committee member Caroline Allen told SM. “The adjudicator will only be able to ‘name and shame’ businesses and issue recommendations. Naming and shaming businesses won’t help, as a lot of people already know about the behaviour of supermarkets. The supermarkets are big businesses and the bottom line is money, so fines are what is needed.”
The Green Party warns that as a small number of large processors and retailers dominate the food industry their restrictive practices are putting farmers and producers at a disadvantage.
“Many small-scale farmers are struggling; if they can't or won't sign up to very restrictive contracts required by supermarkets then the outlets for their produce are very limited,” added Allen. She also called on the government to implement policies supporting smaller farmers to encourage resilience in the food supply chain.
The problems are illustrated by the current crisis in dairy farming, which has seen dairy companies make a climb down on their proposed price cuts as a result of supplier protests. Dairy farmer and Green Party member Henry Gent said: “It’s a scandal how producers can be paid less than it costs to produce something, especially when cost cutting will impact not just on the farmers and their staff but also on the welfare of the animals.”
Bristol Green Party councillor Gus Hoyt added: “Councils should be encouraging local food growing by looking at their own procurement policies and sourcing local food. Our local fruit and vegetable market needs to be protected to provide an alternative route for producers that doesn’t involve the supermarkets.”