Farmers say new bill needs 'teeth'

Farmers protested at Robert Wiseman dairy in Bridgwater

Farmers protested at Robert Wiseman dairy in Bridgwater

First published in Somerset This is The West Country: Photograph of the Author by

A PROTEST group has said a government bill created to name and shame supermarkets which breech a code of practice with dairy farmers needs “more teeth”.

The Grocery Code Adjudicator (GCA) Bill, currently going through parliament, will act as an ‘Ombudsman’ for grocery suppliers to ensure supermarkets treat their contractors fairly - enforcing the Grocery Code by naming those who breech it.

But Farmers For Action (FFA), who organised blockades in July at Bridgwater’s Müller-Wiseman dairy in objection to milk price cuts, said fines should also be implemented.

James Badman Somerset Coordinator for the FFA, told the Mercury: “While I welcome the creation of a sort of grocery ombudsman to monitor traders, I don’t really think it’s enough to name and shame supermarkets who aren’t playing fair.

“I think the more teeth they can give to an Adjudicator, the better. The big supermarkets have the upper hand but I think fining them would have more of an impact and highlight the seriousness of the situation.

“It’s got to be enforced and a fine would hit them financially and damage their reputation.”

Müller-Wiseman has since reversed summer plans to cut milk prices and will increase standard farm-gate milk prices to 29.5p per litre from next month (December), then to just over 30p per litre by February next year.

When the Bill arrived from the House of Lords in September it only granted the Adjudicator the right to ‘name and shame’ retailers that breach the Groceries Supply Chain Code of Practice (GSCOP) - but not to fine them.

It suggests powers to fine will need to be added by the Secretary of State, if deemed necessary. This will face heavy debates as the Bill passes through its Committee and Report stages over the coming weeks.

Ministers hope to appoint an Adjudicator by the end of the year. The legislative process is expected to be completed by early 2013.

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