7 April 2000

Supermarket curb code in place soon

By Alistair Driver

A CODE of practice designed to protect suppliers from the abuse of power by supermarkets could be in place by July.

During last weeks farm summit, the UKs leading retailers announced their commitment to developing a code that they say will help find solutions to some of agricultures problems.

Although the Institute of Grocery Distribution, which is facilitating the project, would not be drawn on a timetable, the NFU expects things to move quickly now that Prime Minister Tony Blair has shown a personal interest. NFU head of food and marketing Helen Lo said farm minister Nick Brown will report the progress of the code to Mr Blair.

"I expect the details of the code to be complete within a month and for it to be in place within a month or two after that," she said.

The code will ensure all partners in the supply chain are treated fairly, said the IGD. More specifically it will ensure terms and conditions between farmers, manufacturers and retailers are clearly understood. It will also monitor formal and informal agreements and ensure reasonable notice is given regarding changes to terms and conditions.

The intention is for the code to be implemented by each supermarket independently, but it is not clear yet how it will be policed.

"It needs to be policed by an independent body, ideally a government body," said Ms Lo.

The code will initially have most impact on the horticulture sector, in which farmers deal directly with supermarkets.

"But I see no reason why it should not be extended to take in the whole supply chain."

, including food service companies, processors and abattoirs," Ms Lo added.

GENERAL

&#8226 No agrimoney compensation for arable sector. Around £15m still available.

&#8226 Indirectly, arable farmers are expected to benefit from:

&#8226 Improvements to MAFFs computer system. All MAFF forms will be available on line by the end of the year.

&#8226 Free consultancy service for farmers seeking planning approval for diversification projects. New advisory booklet.

&#8226 Revision of planning guidance to encourage diversification. Regional Development Agencys redundant building grant programme doubled to £8m in 2000/01.

&#8226 Commitment from government to minimise extra burden of European nitrates directive.

&#8226 Promise to proceed with implementing last years red tape reviews.

&#8226 Supermarkets to develop code of practice.

&#8226 NFUs British Farm Standard to be introduced from May.

&#8226 Allocation of £6.5m to fund Small Business Service to offer one-to-one farm advice.

&#8226 Lantra to receive £1.2m to promote training.

&#8226 Grant of £1m to improve flow of information between research and farmers.

&#8226 Government to provide £2.3m to create a European Centre for organic produce.