Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) Christine Tacon has questioned how her office would be funded if her remit was extended to cover primary producers as well as direct suppliers and retailers.
At the moment, the GCA is bankrolled by a levy on 10 UK retailers with annual turnover of more than £1 billion. It only provides legal protection for direct suppliers to those retailers.
The NFU and Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) have both called for Mrs Tacon to be able to explore unfair trading practices right across the supply chain.
Mrs Tacon said: “How would you fund the office if it had an extended remit? That needs to be considered.”
TFA chairman James Gray said some of the money which is currently being spent on direct payments through the Common Agricultural Policy should be redirected towards a beefed up GCA.
“We want a GCA with the power to look everywhere in supply chains, not just direct to retailers, and she should be able to make unannounced inspections in an Ofsted manner.
Taken advantage of
“The GCA should also be able to publish how prices are broken down. Woodland eggs retail at £2.40 and the producer only gets 80p – you cannot add much value to an egg. Showing the balance of pricing would help farmers take more of a stand when they know they are being taken advantage of.”
NFU deputy president Minette Batters told Farmers Guardian the industry and Government had to come together to discuss how a GCA with more powers would be funded.
“So much cost comes on to the primary producer, the supply chain has to contribute,” she said.
“Post-Brexit, we have got to look at ways to deliver fair trade. The Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) alone will not work. If we are serious about fair trade, we are going to have to roll up our sleeves and look at competition law, as well as looking at the legislation needed to make voluntary codes mandatory.”
The GCA Groceries Sector Survey, which allows suppliers to explain how retailers are complying with GSCOP, is now open.
Farmers have until April 17 to give their views, in confidence, to the GCA.
Mrs Tacon said: “I am hugely dependent on this survey to know what the issues are. I desperately need more than 1,000 responses because that really drives retailer behaviour, so I would encourage as many people as possible to respond.”
You can complete the survey at www.yougov.com/gca.