Clive Beddall Six top multiples are responding to a plea from agriculture minister Nick Brown and introducing an industry code of best practice for doing business with farmers and small producers. Asda, Morrisons, Safeway, Sainsbury, Somerfield and Tesco are signatories to the code which was formally presented to Tony Blair during the farm crisis summit in Downing Street on Thursday, and other chains are set to follow. The multiples say the move is "firm proof of their commitment to British agriculture" and is aimed at helping the government to solve the crisis hitting the farming sector. Facilitated by IGD, the code will be flexible enough to take into account the impact of the new Competition Act as well as the fast moving nature of the industry. Brown told The Grocer: "Although the Competition Commission is looking at retailer/supplier relationships and may eventually impose such a code, the industry must get ahead of the game. The various parts of the chain have huge vested interests in each other's success." Given the recent hostile climate between the farmers and the supermarkets, retailers will have their work cut out convincing hardliner producers the code is not just "window dressing" to impress the Competition Commission. But sources close to the industry group behind the code emphasise they want it to be "all about fairness and reasonableness" in the way the chains and producers do business with each other. This will be projected to farmers and small producers by the NFU. IGD chief executive Joanne Denney said: "We will base the code on existing best practice. We are confident it will positively influence the conduct of business relations throughout the supply chain." The code is being founded on three basic principles. First, farmers, manufacturers and retailers should recognise the competitive pressures of the market and the need to respond quickly to customers and deliver value. Second, the code will stress everyone in the chain benefits if they work together to expand the market for their products and develop a profitable, sustainable business. And, third, it emphasises that all trading partners should be treated "fairly and reasonably." l See Opinion, page 18. {{NEWS }}