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Food groups call for new GCA powers

A coalition of food organisations has called on the government to tackle unfair trading practices along the entire food supply chain as part of its review of the Groceries Code Adjudicator’s (GCA) remit.

The Groceries Code Action Network (GCAN) said the watchdog’s remit should be extended to give current GCA Christine Tacon the power to support better trading practices further along food supply chains, and not just between supermarkets and their direct suppliers. If not, it warned the issues experienced by direct suppliers, such as missed payments or unexpected costs, risked being passed on down the supply chain.

Members of the GCAN, which include The Fairtrade Foundation, Traidcraft, the Food Ethics Council, National Farmers Union and Tenant Farmers Association, welcomed the launch this week of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s review of the GCA’s role and remit and applauded Tacon’s work to encourage and enforce fair dealing.

They said, however, that whilst the GCA’s annual survey, published in June, had seen an improvement in supermarkets’ behaviour toward the firms supplying them in the three years since the post was established, unfair trading practices remained a real issue and half of survey respondents said they were still too scared to report breaches for fear of losing business.

“The GCA has already done important work to improve the grocery sector for consumers by clamping down on unfair dealing and encouraging the UK’s top supermarkets to improve relations with the firms who supply them,” said Michael Gidney, CEO of The Fairtrade Foundation. “However, the Fairtrade Foundation is concerned that farmers on the ground are still bearing the major brunt of unfair trading, particularly those in developing countries, where the GCA currently has no authority to intervene. We hope this review will be an opportunity to extend the GCA’s powers, to ensure fair trading practices, such as paying suppliers on time and in full, are supported at every level of the supply chain.”