Prime Minister Tony Blair is likely to be told that the supermarkets code of practice is not working at a special meeting this year, The Grocer has learned.
Whitehall sources have said Blair is to grant an audience with at least one senior figure from the industry, likely to be Sir Don Curry, who chaired the Commission on the Future of Farming and Food.
The failure of the code is expected to be among the items at the top of the agenda.
It is also expected that the PM will be briefed that farmers’ leaders are still waiting for him to make good his promise to sort out the problem of unfair deals for suppliers, issued at the height of foot and mouth. Blair told farmers
that supermarkets had “pretty much got an arm-lock on you people at the moment”.
Speaking exclusively to The Grocer this week, Sir Don declined to confirm if and when a meeting would take place with Blair, although it is thought he would be the obvious representative to meet the PM as the commission comes to the end of its review of Britain’s food and farming strategy.
However, Sir Don hinted that there would be some obvious topics up for discussion.
“Something needs to be done to restore confidence in the industry,” he said, adding that he had been disappointed by the OFT’s ruling earlier this month that the supermarkets code of practice was working.
“This issue has now assumed such significance with deep concern expressed in the farming industry. Large and small traders continue to flag up problems and the political lobbying is now such that doing nothing is not an option. Either retailers need to take voluntary action to diffuse the pressure building or government needs to consider what future action should be taken.”
Rumours in Whitehall this week indicated Tesco and Sainsbury were working on their own codes in a bid to stave off growing criticism of tough buying practices.
A source said: “It’s believed this may be why none of the supermarkets have yet signed up to the NFU’s voluntary Buyers’ Charter.” Tesco said there was “no truth” in the rumours. Sainsbury said it already had its own code.