The National Farmers’ Union is seeking support for a voluntary charter that would embed some “rules of engagement” into the buying process.
Unlike the much criticised supermarket code of practice, the new charter would be owned by the food chain and would cover buyers at all levels of the industry, from large supermarkets to processors and foodservice companies.
Compliance would be audited by a third party and results would be published.
There appeared to be little enthusiasm from government to introduce new statutory rules governing trading relationships, while the Office of Fair Trading’s code of practice had been roundly dismissed as an irrelevance, said Robin Tapper, the head of food and farming for the NFU.
“We are only just starting to get this off the ground, but we have been working closely with the Food and Drink Federation and we hope to set up a meeting with the British Retail Consortium shortly to take this on to the next stage.”
The content of the charter was still being discussed, but it was likely to include things such as concrete, sector specific definitions of what constituted reasonable notice for making changes to contracts, he predicted.
The move follows a request from competition minister Gerry Sutcliffe to meet the leading supermarkets to discuss their dealings with suppliers as concerns over the power of the big chains mount.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive David Rae said: “This meeting shows that the minister is aware of the growing feeling of dissatisfaction and disquiet that there is in the grocery industry.”
Elaine Watson