The Queen’s address on Wednesday came as music to the ears of farmers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The supermarkets’ domination over the market and subsequent ‘bullying’ of their suppliers is set to come to an end, in what has unsurprisingly been described as ‘progress’ by farming unions and ‘misguided’ by the retail sector.
The new bill which will be discussed and take shape in parliament over the next month is called the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill and it will ensure that farmers and food processors have more power when dealing with the larger stores. From this, more ‘fair and lawful’ deals are hoped to be achieved.
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"We have been campaigning for a supermarket adjudicator for many years to help redress the power imbalance between retailers and producers," Harry Sinclair, President of the Ulster Farmers Union explained.
"Small producers have felt that supermarkets have dominated the food supply chain; therefore ensuring fair play is critical to securing the future of local food production choice for consumers.
"This Groceries Bill is about creating a better functioning supply chain which rewards all players more fairly, ultimately benefitting customers.”
The disgruntlement has been stirring for some time now, but relations really began to sour last year, following a dairy-related confrontation between the two parties. Farmers revealed that the amount they were being paid per pint was actually less than it cost to produce the milk in the first place. It is this type of unjust partnership that the coalition Government aims to quash.
Supermarkets have been threatened with a ‘name and shame’ punishment at first, with heavy fines also an option for serial offenders. Something which British Retail Consortium Food Director, Andrew Opie objects to.
"The proposed adjudicator is in danger of adding to the cost and bureaucracy of running a grocery business without adding to the strong protection which already exists for suppliers," he claimed.
"The Government's initial estimate put running costs at just £800,000 a year; a figure the BIS select committee said was unrealistic. The truth is no-one knows what the cost might be. Retailers are being asked to write a blank cheque.”
National Farmers' Union President, Peter Kendall acknowledged the concerns but lauded the decision: "We applaud the government for sticking to its commitment to introduce an adjudicator, but warn that to introduce one without the powers to do a proper job could, in fact, be counter-productive.”