Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon has made a plea for farmers and MPs to stop asking her to interfere beyond her remit - such as by getting involved in farmgate pricing.
Giving evidence at the Environment Food & Rural Affairs Committee’s inquiry on farmgate prices in Westminster today, Tacon said she was fed up with coming under criticism for “not doing things I was not set up to do and I don’t have the legal ability to do”.
Quizzed by MPs over the fact dairy farmers felt the GCA didn’t have “enough teeth” and was doing “nothing for them”, Tacon said people had simply misunderstood her role.
“To do the job that I have been given, which covers direct suppliers to retailers, I think I have got plenty of teeth,” she said. “The ability to investigate and the ability to fine is more than enough, because the level of fine is so large.
“I think the people who are saying I haven’t got the teeth to do the job, if actually you read behind it, actually just want me to do a different job”.
She pointed out that not only would extending her powers to cover indirect suppliers and issues like price require another CMA investigation and possibly more legislation, but she already had a huge job to do within her existing remit.
“I am trying to change the culture of the ten of the largest businesses in the UK, an embedded culture that has been going on for decades,” she said.
“I think I am doing a reasonably good job but even in the last survey seven out of 10 suppliers said they had come across a breach of the code in the last 12 months.”
She stressed she would be able to do that job better if people understood her role and stopped questioning her on it. “It is quite a distraction having to continually reinforce with people when I can’t get engaged in things,” she said.