Clive Beddall Farmers and food manufacturers fear that failure to agree the small print in the DTI's draft code of trading practice within the "unrealistic" deadline set by secretary of state for trade and industry Stephen Byers could force the government into imposing the code with important issues unresolved. That was clear this week as industry bodies began to assess the draft which has finally been circulated by Office of Fair Trading lawyers. The NFU, currently consulting its members about the issue, has called for an extension to the three week deadline for responses to the draft. As one official put it: "The multiples were given three months to respond and we get three weeks. Where's the fairness in that?" Other suppliers have complained to The Grocer that Byers' fast track agenda for the code is motivated by an eagerness to implement it before the election campaign. Said the md of one major group: "This is a very important step and needs careful consideration. Rush it through and you will have major headaches which will not make for harmonious relationships. We've made a lot of progress on industry unity issues in recent months. We don't want that to be ruined by forcing a code upon us which creates a lot of aggro." Suppliers and farmers are astonished the OFT insists on sticking to the letter of Byers' request after the Competition Commission report, and only applying the code to Asda, Safeway, Sainsbury, Somerfield and Tesco. Twenty four multiples were originally probed by the Competition Commission and farmers and growers argue the code should be applied to all of them. At the Provision Trade Federation annual dinner this week, president Andy Smyth said: "We recognise that no code of practice can substitute for the detailed negotiations between buyer and seller. But it is important to outlaw unfair practices such as retrospective discounting and other unexpected demands for additional payments." {{NEWS }}