Wales could lead the way in forcing through legislation that would prevent supermarkets from using their size and influence to squeeze the profit margins of milk producers and other farming sectors.
Speaking at the Royal Welsh Showground, Wales’ deputy farming minister Alun Davies said Wales was willing to go it alone by introducing tough new legislation controlling the actions of retailers in the marketplace.
Mr Davies was due to take part in a meeting with ministers from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland at the Royal Welsh Show on Monday 23 July.
He said he would prefer a UK-wide solution to the milk crisis but if a tougher approach to a voluntary code of conduct could not be agreed with his fellow ministers, then lawyers from the Welsh Government would draft legislation ahead of a debate in the Senedd.
Mr Davies said: “It would not be the chosen path for the Welsh Government to implement a dairying code of practice for Wales alone but if the UK Government is not prepared to take any action then in Wales we have to look at what means are available for us to protect the future of dairying. We have to look at legislation.”
The minister wants to see a framework established whereby farmers get a better deal from their contracts with milk buyers. This could involve supermarkets being fined if they fall foul of the Groceries Code Adjudicator.
“How long can we stand by and do nothing,” said Mr Davies. “It is all very well having a voluntary code but the problem is making that agreement work over a long period of time. The Groceries Code Adjudicator needs teeth; it needs to have the power to impose fines.”
The current legislation, he said, does not go far enough. “If this crisis has taught us anything it’s that we need a more durable and sustainable structure to support dairying and the whole of the supply chain.”
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