Some suppliers say supermarket buying practices have improved since the introduction of the groceries code adjudicator (GCA), although optimism is not felt by all producers. 

Suppliers that had experienced a change in behaviour tended to be those with greater bargaining power.

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Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association, which represents growers, packers and processors in the horticulture sector, spoke at a seminar on the groceries code adjudicator in London on Tuesday (18 March).

He said: “The overwhelming feedback we get from members is that [the GCA] is a good thing and they can feel the benefits of what is taking place and some of the worst excesses of the past years are scaling back.”

However, he said all was “not rosy in the garden,” and that there were “undoutedly some very bad practices going on.”  

“There is a strong sense that we need better collaboration, communication and a sense of trust.”
Jack Ward, British Growers Association

Suppliers with produce that was highly seasonal, difficult to source in quantity and quality elsewhere and which was important to customers as being British, tended to be those that had experienced a change in retailer buyer behaviour, said Mr Ward.

This included a more collaborative approach and stopping requiring suppliers to use a specific packer.

There was however a lack of confidence among suppliers which was preventing them investing in the future of their businesses – and the retailer-supplier relationship was key to this, he said.

“There is a strong sense that we need better collaboration, communication and a sense of trust,” said Mr Ward.

Christine Tacon, the GCA, said suppliers were telling her that the role’s very existence was having an impact.

However, she said the task was large and required a change in culture among supermarkets.

“We may well need a new generation of buyers before a true cultural change can happen,” she said.