Tacon sends out clear message to the big retailers

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The Grocery Codes Adjudicator Christine Tacon has told Farming Life that she is in constant liaison with all of the main supermarket retailers in the UK about issues that have a direct bearing on how they deal with suppliers.

These matters include late payment plus the significant number of errors made by retailers, in terms of their general interaction with food companies, and how these matters are subsequently rectified.

Tacon recently found TESCO to be in violation of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP).

“This has sent a clear message to all of the other food retailers,” she said.

But Tacon also pointed out that there was little or no appetite at government level to have her role extended beyond its current guidelines.

“I know that farming organisations want an adjudicator with the powers to examine the prices paid by the supermarkets and how these are fed back to farmers. For this to happen would require the introduction of new legislation. But this might also be seen as a way of fixing prices to farmers, which would contravene the principle of an open market for food products.”

Tacon was speaking prior to her taking part in a Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) hosted seminar at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, held earlier this week, at which she discussed the general implications of the Tesco case for local food supply companies.

“I will be formally monitoring progress and requiring evidence from Tesco that my recommendations are being met,” she explained.

“In particular, I have set a seven-day deadline for resolving pricing errors and stopped the retailer from making unilateral deductions from money owed for goods supplied. Suppliers will have 30 days to challenge any proposed deduction and then Tesco will not be able to make the deduction until the disagreement is resolved.

“During my investigation I also uncovered practices relating to better positioning and allocation of shelf space, such as requests for investment, range reviews, category captaincy and category management. I decided they require further scrutiny and am launching a formal consultation shortly.”

Tacon added that there had been major improvements in Tesco’s dealings with suppliers since her report was published.