NFU president Meurig Raymond

NFU president Meurig Raymond

The Groceries Code Adjudicator’s role should be extended to cover more retailers and include those with turnover of less than £1bn, according to the NFU.

In its response to the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy inquiry, which closed this week, the farmer’s union said Adjudicator Christine Tacon had “changed the culture and behaviour” of the top 10 retailers and should be allowed to use her “teeth” to tackle more retailers and suppliers.

The union also called for the Adjudicator to be given extra powers to police primary producers, though it stopped short of calling for the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) to be extended to cover all elements of supplier relationships.

In October last year, The Grocer revealed the government was considering extending the GCA remit to cover a raft of powerful food and drink retailers, wholesalers and hospitality companies. This could see the likes of Boots, Booker, B&M Stores, Compass, Ocado and Poundland brought under the jurisdiction of the GCA for the first time.

“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 NFU president Meurig Raymond.

“Many businesses have increased their market power, which they have been able to assert over suppliers and, to a lesser extent, retail customers as we have seen reported in the media over the past few months. 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; that of the intermediaries versus farming businesses. This has led to unfair trading practices to be pushed on to producers.”

The NFU called on BEIS to reduce the turnover bracket for GSCOP below the current £1bn, to bring more retailers, foodservice and food manufacturing businesses under the net.

It also called for the £2bn ornamental sector to be brought under the GSCOP legislation, claiming because direct suppliers do not fall within the definition of ‘groceries’ in the GSCOP, the supply of flowers and plants to UK supermarkets had no protection from GSCOP.

In addition, the NFU urged the government to make agri-sector voluntary codes, such as the Dairy and Livestock Voluntary Code, compulsory and overseen by the GCA to “give them more teeth”.

It said the GCA should have the ability to take evidence of any breach from primary producers.

“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,” said Raymond.