CHRISTINE Tacon has been appointed to the newly created role as the independent Groceries Code Adjudicator for the UK.
In her new role Ms Tacon will be responsible for enforcing the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which regulates interactions between the ten largest supermarkets with an annual turnover of £1bn and their direct suppliers.
In addition, the adjudicator will have the power to launch investigations into suspected breaches of the code, including those arising from confidential complaints from any source. If she finds evidence of a breach, the adjudicator will be able to make recommendations against a supermarket, require them to publish details of their breach, or, in the most extreme cases, to impose fines. She will also have the power to arbitrate disputes between large supermarkets and their direct suppliers.
The Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, which will formally create the office of the adjudicator, is currently before Parliament. Christine Tacon will act as Adjudicator-Designate until the office of the adjudicator is established by law, when she will formally take up the four year appointment.
Commenting on her appointment Christine Tacon said: “Being the Groceries Code Adjudicator is a significant responsibility, and I am honoured to have been given the chance to make a permanent and enduring difference to the groceries sector. Coming from a commercial background, I am sure that if we can increase trust between retailers and their direct suppliers. It will lead to greater efficiency and can only have a beneficial impact on the rest of the supply chain.”
Christine Tacon has a portfolio career combining her commercial expertise with her understanding of the food chain and the public sector. She is a chartered engineer with 12 years’ experience in sales and marketing of fast moving consumer goods (Mars, Anchor and Vodafone) and ran the Co-operative Group’s farming business, the largest in the UK, for 11 years until 2012. She was awarded a CBE for services to agriculture in 2004.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Council in Northern Ireland has published a report, entitled: ‘Hard to Stomach’, which looks at the impact rising food costs are having on local consumers.
Speaking at its launch, Antoinette McKeown, chief executive of the Consumer Council said: “Food is a central and essential part of our daily lives. Our report, ‘Hard to Stomach’ highlights the anxiety being felt by consumers throughout Northern Ireland in light of rising food bills.
“Our research has found that almost nine in 10 consumers are worried about the cost of their food and groceries and it’s a concern that cuts across all ages, income brackets, cities, towns and villages.
“In response to rising food prices 82 per cent of consumers reported changes to the way they shop, cook and eat. We found consumers are making less impulse buys; buying less in general and planning meals more carefully to avoid waste.
“As well as the price of food, our report looks at the level of trust between consumers and the large supermarkets and retailers and we found that 61 per cent of consumers felt that more could be done to help by charging a fair price.
“The report also reflects the anxiety felt by consumers trying to afford a healthily balanced diet. We heard from parents and those with medical or dietary requirements in particular.
“We also got feedback from consumers on the balance of special offers available at supermarkets and how confusing deals and price promotions can be.
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“We will use our report to work with Government and food industry representatives to ensure that the consumer voice is heard and to address the issues raised by consumers.
“The Consumer Council is looking forward to working with government and food industry representatives to ensure the consumer voice is heard and to address issues raised. This is particularly relevant at the moment given the pending Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill.”
Commenting on both of these developments UFU President Harry Sinclair said that the need for a fully functional food chain was never greater.
He added: “I sincerely hope that Christine Tacon will be able to shed light on the ways in which food processers and retailers go about their business. We need a sustainable food chain which delivers food at the right price to consumers.
“Consumers must be offered value for money. However, over recent months primary producers have borne all of the additional costs incurred in the wake of the explosion in world commodity prices. Very little, if any, of these input cost hikes have been reflected back to farmers in the form of improved farmgate returns. This situation is wholly unsustainable!”