Government unveils supermarket ‘adjudicator’ to protect farmers
THE Government has announced groundbreaking plans to create a supermarket ‘adjudicator’ to investigate and solve supply disputes between farmers, suppliers and supermarkets.
Under the plans farmers will be able to approach the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA), announced today (Tuesday, August 3), to complain about any unfair treatment from supermarkets.
The complainant’s identity will remain anonymous to avoid reprisals from suppliers or supermarkets.
The move is a huge boost to farmers who have long been calling for a supermarket watchdog or ombudsman but, until now, have had no outlet to report bullying tactics. The adjudicator, which will be part of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), will be paid for by the UK’s ten largest retailers.
The retailers, who have a combined turnover of £110 billion, will pay around £120,000 each per year.
However the announcement has been branded a backwards step by the big supermarkets who had called on Ministers to ditch plans for an ombudsman which they said would be no more than a ‘supermarket quango’ and a ‘costly waste of time’.
The Department of Business said the adjudicator’s job would be to police the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) which has been in place since February this year.
Edward Davey, the Consumer Minister, said: “We want to make sure that large retailers can’t abuse their power by transferring risks or unexpected costs onto their suppliers. These sorts of pressures are bad for producers and bad for consumers.
“The Adjudicator will be able to step in to prevent unfair practices continuing - ensuring a fair deal for producers and safeguarding the consumer interest.”
Jim Paice, Farming Minister, said the adjudicator, which was recommended by the Competition Commission in 2008, would ensure a fair market place for farmers.
“The new adjudicator will help to strike the right balance between farmers and food producers getting a fair deal, and supermarkets ensuring their customers can get the high-quality British food they want at a price they can afford,” he said.
The Department of Business must now win approval from the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee to publish a draft Bill later this year with a likely introduction to Parliament in late 2011 and implementation in 2012.
Although some industry figures have criticised the Government for ‘a cumbersome approach’ arguing that the watchdog should be installed ‘without delay’.