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New groceries watchdog appointed

FORMER SAINSBURYS farms managing director, Christine Tacon, has been appointed as the UK's first independent Groceries Code adjudicator – the long-awaited supermarket watchdog.

Christine Tacon
Christine Tacon

Ms Tacon's role will be to enforce the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, wielding the power to launch investigations into suspected breaches of the code, including those arising from confidential complaints from any source.

She will also have the power to arbitrate disputes between large supermarkets and their direct suppliers, essentially managing the relationship between the two. Crucially, Ms Tacon will have the power to levy fines on retailers that persist in breaking the rules.

NFU Scotland's food chain relationships manager, Wendy Fleming, welcomed the new appointment and hoped it would have a positive impact on farmers: "For our members, many of whom are struggling in the face of difficult farming conditions, rising input costs and poor market returns, this will not lead overnight to an improvement in their income.

"However, it should mean that we move towards a healthier culture of competition between major retailers where rivalry for custom is based on offering a wide variety of goods at a price which is acceptable to all in the supply chain.

"NFUS has contended from the outset that the adjudicator must have sufficient powers to hold retailers to account and that third parties, such as NFUS, should be able to notify the adjudicator of breaches of the code," stressed Ms Fleming.

"There is no doubt that Christine Tacon will have an enormous task ahead of her, however, the very fact that an Adjudicator has now been appointed, backed up by what is emerging as a very satisfactory Bill, is a real achievement."

Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead commented: "Free and fair competition is the key to a healthy market and it is important that supermarkets act responsibly and treat farmers and suppliers fairly and lawfully. The Appointment of the groceries code adjudicator should help in this regard.

"I believe that better protection for suppliers and ensuring that fewer suppliers leave the market will also benefit consumers and retailers by generating greater choice and higher product quality."

For her part, Ms Tacon said: "Being the Groceries Code Adjudicator is a significant responsibility, and I am honoured to have been given the chance to make a permanent and enduring difference to the groceries sector.

"Coming from a commercial background, I am sure that if we can increase trust between retailers and their direct suppliers, it will lead to greater efficiency and can only have a beneficial impact on the rest of the supply chain."

The Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, which will formally create the office of the adjudicator, is currently before Parliament.

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