Defra Secretary George Eustice has said the measures to tackle supply chain unfairness in the Agriculture Bill will give farmers a ‘fair share of the cake’, despite the fact they do not touch on price.
The legislation sets out plans to increase transparency and fairness in the supply chain by introducing new requirements on the collection and sharing of data, placing fair dealing obligations on business purchasers of agricultural products and establishing new measures on Producer Organisations.
But much like the Groceries Code Adjudicator, whose remit does not include price, none of these powers will guarantee farmers receive a greater share of the food pound, or even above cost of production prices.
Asked at NFU conference what more Government should do to tackle the problem, Defra Secretary George Eustice said: “We have never said we would regulate to dictate what prices should be.
“It would be foolhardy to say the minimum price of milk should be 40p, because the next thing you would have to do is legislate to force people to drink milk.
“It is not the right way to go, but we are looking at a new statutory dairy code so there is absolute clarity about the way pricing formulas work.
“If we get that transparency, I think it will lead to farmers getting a fairer share of the value.”
NFU president Minette Batters was not satisfied with the response, and repeated her earlier call for a complete review of competition law to allow the needs of producers to be considered.
“Our competition law always comes from the consumer end, but if you look at competition law in the US, it is completely different to what we have here,” she said.
“They link between price and the producer, so there is an opportunity for us to create different rules, but you have to have the review of the competition framework in agrifood before you do that.”