The adjudicator looks at complaints from suppliers who feel they have not been treated fairly by the multiple grocery trade. As part of the statutory adjudicator review, both Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Defra have committed to a call for evidence about the issues faced by primary producers.
NFU horticultural adviser Amy Gray said: "One of our four key asks is for the adjudicator and the Grocery Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) remit to be extended to include ornamental plant production. It is important that growers of ornamental plants and flowers are afforded the same protection as growers of edible crops when it comes to trading with their large retail customers.
"Sustainability, risk management and volatility management must be the food supply chain's core principles for British farming businesses to thrive. An imbalance of buying power in the supply chain, and unfair trading practices (UTPs) of intermediaries lead to smaller parties, such as British farmers and growers, losing out. We already see buying power in the UK retail sector managed by the GSCOP and the adjudicator but UTPs exert a negative impact to British primary producers."
NFU food chain adviser Christine McDowell said: "The NFU recognises the success of the GSCOP and the adjudicator in changing cultural behaviours of retailers with their direct suppliers. The adjudicator's survey results in 2016 showed the progress retailers are making in instilling the principles of fair dealing in their buying functions. The proportion of suppliers with issues fell from 70 per cent in 2015 to 62 per cent in 2016, with Tesco and Iceland reported as most improved.
"Many of our members do not enjoy the benefits the GSCOP and the adjudicator bring, as most farmers and growers are indirect suppliers. This is why we are calling for an extension of the adjudicator remit to oversee the relationship between farmers and their direct buyers."
She added: "We also recognise that the ornamental sector is excluded from the scope of GSCOP currently and are well aware of unfair trading behaviours, explicitly banned within the GSCOP, facing our ornamental grower members. We are in the final stages of submitting written evidence of these unfair practices into the adjudicator review and will be calling for the GSCOP scope to be extended to cover suppliers of ornamentals to retailers."
The NFU's key asks of an extended adjudicator and GSCOP remit include:
- To reduce the turnover of GSCOP to include more retailers, food service and manufacturing businesses.
- To include the ornamental sector within the scope of GSCOP.
- To make the principles of the voluntary code compulsory and have them overseen by the adjudicator.
- To give the adjudicator the ability to take evidence of any breach from primary producers.
The British Protected Ornamentals Association (BPOA) has surveyed members with mixed results and made a submission. Chairman Simon Davenport said: "The BPOA believes that the work of the adjudicator has been effective in improving the running of edibles grocery trading and can be helpful for the, similarly perishable, ornamentals trade. NFU has already made a substantial submission and BPOA would support the points made.
"Growers know that the relationships with customers are critical to the success of the business and legislation cannot replace the need to keep those relationships strong. However, anything that will generally improve the business climate and the understanding between supplier and retailer will benefit all partners in the long term. The existence of the adjudicator is often enough to ensure that all parties adhere to agreed standards."
HTA policy co-ordinator Robert Hanson said: "Having sent out emails, published information on our website and discussed this in committee meetings, we have not had any meaningful responses on this issue so we have decided not to submit a response because we have no mandate from our membership to do so." The association added that extending the adjudicator's remit to ornamentals could be a good idea because ornamentals are not part of the GSCOP.