FARMERS are hailing an historic moment in their ongoing battle to be treated fairly by supermarkets after the Government published its long-awaited Bill to create a new industry ombudsman designed to keep large buyers in check.
The Groceries Code Adjudicator will be set up to ensure supermarkets adhere to competition guidelines when dealing with suppliers and will name and shame those who fail to comply.
A power to fine the worst offenders will be placed in the hands of the Secretary of State for Business – currently Vince Cable.
The Bill also now allows farmers to make complaints anonymously – a crucial issue for farmers concerned about reprisals.
The NFU praised the Government for taking a “strong stance” in the face of lobbying and said the Bill was a just reward for farmers who had “bravely stepped forward amid a climate of fear” to reveal unfair practices.
“After years of campaigning, this announcement will be welcomed by suppliers and producers who, for too long, have been subjected to unfair practices by the major supermarkets,” said NFU President Peter Kendall.
The Bill was presented to the House of Lords yesterday just two days after it was unveiled in the Queen’s Speech.
It is likely to have passed into the statue book by Christmas, meaning the new ombudsman could be up and running by the middle of next year.
Business Minister Norman Lamb said: “Supermarkets will still be able to secure the best deals and pass the benefits on to consumers, but they should also treat farmers and suppliers fairly and lawfully.
“This means paying them on time or not being able to scrap arrangements with farmers and suppliers at the drop of a hat.”