2 November 2001

Supermarket code criticised

A NEW code of practice designed to govern the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers is deeply disappointing, say farmers.

Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, has approved the code – seven months after her deoartment received it from the director general of Fair Trading.

Mrs Hewitt said: " will help redress the balance between supermarkets and their suppliers. It will give suppliers greater certainty and security, by putting their contractual relations with supermarkets on a clearer and more predictable basis."

But the NFU said the document was flawed and ambiguous. The result was that the code could still be open to wide interpretation by the retailers especially in areas such as changes to prices and payments and consumer complaints management.

NFU president Ben Gill said: "It is a recipe for dispute which is precisely what we intended to avoid. To have this is bad enough but to have had to wait seven months is an insult to an industry already under intolerable pressure."

Many thousands of farmers and growers who do not supply supermarkets would not even have the very limited protection it afforded. "As it stands at the moment, the Code will do little if nothing to reassure our members." &#42