NFU president Ben Gill is holding urgent meetings with major multiples as he steps up his angry opposition to the DTI's new code of practice for the top four chains. In a letter to secretary of state for trade and industry Patricia Hewitt, he declared: "As it stands, the code of practice offers not only little reassurance to farmers and growers but actually worsens the ambiguities of the Competition Commission's report." Gill is incensed that the industry was kept in the dark about ithe publication date of the code, while the sudden announcement was particularly galling after a seven month wait. The final version of the code "appears to have forgotten" that there is a dramatic size imbalance in the chain, a fact recognised by the OFT inquiry into supermarket profitability, said Gill. "With the code as it stands and the apparent lack of real understanding by government, I can only conclude farmers and growers will need to work even harder to be competitive against the continual, well-founded backdrop of fear and commercial reprisal." Gill wants an urgent meeting with Hewitt to discuss the code and has this week been canvassing leading multiples for their support for a better deal for the farmers. He added: "It is critical that every avenue is explored to find a fair set of relationships between buyers and sellers within the food chain. "The NFU will continue to meet retailers to press for proper implementation of the code, poor though it is." Safeway director of communications, Dr Kevin Hawkins said this week that the code was "flawed". He told an FSA meeting in London: "We have pointed this out repeatedly to the OFT." But Hawkins rejected the notion that the industry might "bypass" the code and resurrect the voluntary version drawn up under the auspices of then MAFF minister Nick Brown. Hawkins added: "This code will make a difference to supplier-retailer relations." {{NEWS }}