George welcomes action on Supermarket Watchdog

Posted on: 9th May 2012

The MP who has led a decade long campaign to protect farmers and growers from what he has described as the “bully boy behaviour of supermarket buyers” has welcomed the news that the Government is finally taking action to create a supermarket watchdog following an announcement in today’s Queen’s Speech.

Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat MP for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Constituency of St Ives, chairs the Grocery Market Action Group (GMAG) which has pressed for action.

Mr George welcomed the announcement that the Government will now proceed with a Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill.

The need for a supermarket watchdog was made clear in two reports by the Competition Commission published in 2000 and 2008. Both reports found that big supermarkets were abusing their power in the market and were transferring ‘excessive risk and unexpected costs’ to farmers, growers, and suppliers. They warned that if action was not taken these practices would ‘have an adverse effect on investment and innovation in the supply chain, and ultimately on consumers’. New rules (a Code of Practice) governing fair business practices in the supply chain were introduced in February 2010 but GMAG has frequently noted that unless the Government also take action to create the watchdog there was no one in place to ensure the new rules are enforced.

GMAG includes in its membership the National Farmers’ Union, the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, the British Independent Fruit Growers Association, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid, Traidcraft, the Association of Convenience Stores, and others.

Commenting Mr George said:

“After a decade of campaigning with GMAG and others I welcome today’s announcement. Though it is not before time!

“The code is fine. But it’s like having a game of rugby with a rule book, but no referee! So the code needs an Adjudicator.

“The progress of this long campaign has met with constant opposition from some of the large supermarkets but I think they should embrace this move – if they have nothing to hide then they will have nothing to fear. Some of them have already responded to today’s announcement with the same old bluster but it is good news for farmers, growers, and consumers.

“The Government should now press on with its plans and create the watchdog to ensure fair trade runs through the supply chain from the farm to the shopping trolley.”