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’.

Readers' comments (12)

  • At last some fairness for our farmers, what I dont like seeing is the supermarkets offering our british produce at half price make the foreigners do the bogof's and lets look after ourselves, put an advert on tv about supporting british food manufacturers and farmers and not foreign food, lets take a leaf out of the french and italians books they support each other.

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  • I quite agree with anonymous reply.Make the foreign produce do the bogof's. Better still, the supermarkets should be banned from imorting foreign produce when the UK season is in production or even ban all foreign produce imports when the product is freely available during the UK season.

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  • At last, a step forward for our horticultural industry. It's a shame that it will be 2012 before the Adjudicator is in place, but it should help root out the unfair practice that goes on at the moment.

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  • good idea to ban imports when our foods are in season. no more meat imports then....
    i am sick of having to buy, such as onions, from morrisons, nz and spanish versions when ours are in season. who has the time to go to a different retailer, especially at 8pm?

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  • all fair comments but will it have the teeth or balls to do any thing and lets have everyday farmers on the board no freinds of people in the know,{and how do i get my name on the application list}

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  • In response to the first two comments: as far as i'm aware, bogof's are mostly loss-leaders introduced by supermarkets to attract customers and encourage spending. I don't think the drop in price is transfered to the producer. We own a dairy farm and our price has never been affected by the offers the supermarket chooses to run. Bogof's get people buying and we need people to buy british, not foreign, especially in the current financial climate. so long as the cost of the bogof continues to be absorbed by the supermarkets i'm all for it. What is very wrong however, is the terrible amount of power weilded by both the big supermarket chains and the national distributors. The low prices that we are forced to sell our milk at have crippled the dairy industry. We are one of only a handful of dairy farms left in our area, where 15 years ago there were more than 40.

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  • At last a step in the right direction for Farmers and consumers alike. For too long both ends of the chain has been abused by large corporate organisations where profit is king. The quality of food supplied to the consumer has become poorer and poorer due to producers being squeezed and bullied into production price acceptance at below operational level. For too long suppliers do not have enough of a margin to improve welfare and food quality.
    Food could easily be cheaper to the consumer if the supermarket mafia allowed fair trade prices for producer and consumer alike.

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  • Good news!! However, I like to buy my food from farm shops and not supermarkets. I would like to see the British farmers get together and setup their own chain of supermarkets - it could even be called "British Farmers" too! People want quality/ quality always sells! How hard can it be?

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  • bogof's in the veg industry are related directly back to the producer.You will find that the cost is passed back to the milk processor and them producer but not directly,so it will not be seen.

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  • it is about time they famers stood up for them selfs and send a invoice to they supermarkets for goods supplied with 30% profit. or better still send a PROFORMA INVOICE .super market has walked all over they famers for years. FAMERS STAND UP FOR YOUR SELFS

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