Most farmers are not currently protected by the Groceries Code because they do not supply directly to supermarkets ©123RF
Most farmers are not currently protected by the Groceries Code because they do not supply directly to supermarkets ©123RF

Powers of groceries code adjudicator could be extended

30 August 2016

A consultation into expanding the powers of groceries code adjudicator (GCA) Christine Tacon is expected to start in the next few weeks.

The minister for small business, Margot James, is expected to launch an open call for evidence from stakeholders, including direct and indirect supermarket suppliers, over whether the remit of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice should be expanded and Tacon given more powers.

A spokesman from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) confirmed there were plans to launch a consultation, but would not specify the exact date.

Tacon is responsible for arbitrating disputes between supermarkets and their suppliers over issues covered in the code, including payment delays, variations over supply agreements and compensation for forecasting errors.

As it stands, the code does not cover issues such as price setting or the relationship between retailers and tier two suppliers and beyond.

The agricultural sector is likely to have a particular interest in expanding the remit of the code because most farmers do not supply directly to supermarkets and so do not fall under the protection of the code.

In January last year MPs called unsuccessfully for the expansion of the code to cover all milk producers after the dairy farmers were hit by a 50% price drop.

A spokesman from the National Farmers' Union said: “Any consultation must ensure that our farmer and grower members are represented… We would like to see agri-sector voluntary codes of practice be made compulsory, and overseen by the GCA, to give them more teeth.”

Last year, Tacon was given the power to levy monetary fines on retailers found in violation of the code. In her latest annual report, released in June, she made no recommendations for further changes to the code. However, she did report “widespread calls for the extension of [her] remit into areas that are outside the code”.

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