Sustain calls on new minister to support small business by extending the role of Groceries Watchdog

It is exactly one year since the Groceries Code Adjudicator consultation (1) closed and yet we still haven't had a response from the Government. Today Sustain welcomes the new small businesses minister to post and calls on him to put this at the top of his new to do list.

10/01/2018
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At the recent Oxford Real Farming Conference where Sustain was chairing the Brexit room, Sustain’s Food and Farming Campaign Co-ordinator Vicki Hird asked DEFRA Secretary of State Michael Gove for an explanation on the delay. The response from the Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs was underwhelming to say the least. “There will be change, but not as dramatic as some people would like”, he said.

Despite the importance of ensuring a fair deal for farmers, in his speech to the Oxford Farming Conference that morning he made only the briefest of mentions of the GCA consultation. “Government can also intervene closer to home where there is market failure. When, for example some powerful players in the food chain use the scale of their market presence to demand low prices from primary producers who are much smaller and dis-aggregated. That is why my colleague George Eustice is looking now at overall fairness in the supply chain.”

Vicki Hird, aid:

“A full year has passed since the GCA consultation and in that period we’ve heard continuing reports of indirect suppliers such as farmers, fishers, exporters and processors being affected by abuses along the supply chain.

"Our small suppliers are especially vulnerable to companies using the unfair practices which the main grocery retailers are required to avoid under the Code, such as late payments, last-minute changes of orders and requests for one-off ‘lump sum donations’. Britain’s  farmers and independent suppliers deserve to be protected from sharp practices that threaten their livelihood and reduce diversity and choice for consumers.

They can’t wait any longer. We call on Michael Gove and George Eustice to respond to the consultation immediately and extend fully the remit of the GCA to protect our small suppliers.”

Tom Wills, Policy Officer at trade justice charity Traidcraft, said:  

“The Groceries Code Adjudicator must be properly empowered to guarantee fairer trading practices along supermarket supply chains. Rather than taking this simple step to support food businesses and farmers in the UK and overseas, the government has prevaricated. In the meantime, food producers continue to be subjected to unfair purchasing practices, and the sector is being pushed almost to breaking point.”

- ends -

Notes

1. The call for views on whether to extend the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) to cover more buyers in the supply chain can be viewed here.

2. Sustain’s response to the consultation can be found here and detailed notes and a Q & A on the possible extension here.

 

 

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Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.