27 July 2001
Store code delays frustrate Union

By Isabel Davies

THE governments attempts to get a better deal for farmers who supply supermarkets appear to have ground to a halt.

Farm leaders had hoped a code of practice regulating the relationship between supermarkets and farmers would be in place by the end of July.

But Helen Lo, NFU head of food and marketing, said it was starting to look like the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) wasnt taking the issue seriously.

Ms Lo said she understood the code of practice was sent by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to the DTI shortly after the general election in June.

But despite repeated inquiries she had been unable to confirm details of the code which is thought to have been drawn up over a period of months.

The NFU responded to an OFT consultation last year, but is still waiting to hear whether its recommendations have been included in the final draft.

“The code of practice may not be on the top of the DTIs agenda but it is certainly at the top of ours,” said Ms Lo.

“We are still getting calls from our members saying they are being asked to do things they shouldnt.”

NFU president Ben Gill has written to Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt complaining about an apparent lack of action and absence of information.

The code was recommended last year after the Competition Commission ruled the relationship between supermarkets and farmers was distorting the market.

A DTI spokeswoman refused to speculate whether a code would be approved in weeks or months, saying only it would be “published in due course.”

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