The Government has rejected calls to extend the Groceries Code Adjudicator’s (GCA) remit, leading industry bodies to claim it has ‘failed in its duty’ to tackle unfair trading practices.
In their long-awaited response to the consultation on the GCA, Minister for Small Business Andrew Griffiths and Farming Minister George Eustice said any extension to the Adjudicator’s remit ‘would not be appropriate at this time’.
The news has come as a disappointment to farming groups, which had repeatedly called for the GCA to be able to explore unfair trading practices across the whole supply chain, rather than just those taking place between the 10 biggest UK retailers and their direct suppliers.
“Although there are clearly a number of concerns relating to the experience of some farmers and growers in the supply chain, there is no clear evidence of systematic widespread market failures”, the Ministers said.
The refusal to extend the GCA’s remit follows Defra Secretary Michael Gove’s admission there would be ‘no dramatic change’ to the Adjudicator at the Oxford Real Farming Conference in January.
Instead, Mr Griffiths and Mr Eustice promised to explore a range of ‘more targeted and proportionate’ measures to help primary producers deal with unfair trading practices.
But Tenant Farmers’ Association chief executive George Dunn said the Government had ‘dropped the ball’ by not ensuring proper regulation throughout the supply chain.
“The GCA has been doing some great work in tackling unfair practices in the way retailers treat their direct suppliers but there is no protection for indirect suppliers, including farmers, from poor treatment in the supply chain”, he added.
“It is in all of our interests to ensure we have a fair, sustainable and ethical groceries supply chain and this cannot be left to the vagaries of the marketplace.”
Senior rural business adviser at the CLA, Dr Charles Trotman, said the failure to extend the GCA’s remit meant farmers who do not directly supply supermarkets would continue to suffer.
“The Government must urgently reconsider and ensure the GCA can hold all those across the supply chain to account for substandard practices”, he added.