GCA - Widening the remit

by Jack Ward

Fresh fruit and veg are an essential part of our diet but according to the current stats 74% of the adult population and 84% of the child population are not eating enough.

When it comes to the production of fruit and veg here in the UK there has been a 27% decline in the production area over the last 30 years and fruit and veg are now the greatest source of imports in the UK food system.

British Growers ran some research last year and one of the questions asked was what are the main threats are for the next 3 to 5 years. Two key issues topped the poll - global competition and the power of the multiple retailers.

With the majority of produce going through the retail markets, it goes without saying that the multiple retailers are absolutely key to the future of the UK horticultural sector and the 100,000 job and 5000 business involved in the industry.

No one comes into this business expecting it to be easy but there is an expectation that the supply chain should treat suppliers in a fair, open, honest and transparent way.

The GCA has done a lot to improve the culture around the supplier / retailer relationship and helped to eliminate a number of specific issues like forensic accounting and delayed payments. Regular meetings between the GCA and retailers and training in the use of the code is adding to an improved trading environment. And generally the view within the industry is that the GCA is helping to deliver a more balanced trading environment.

But the way the GCA legislations is set up at the moment means that only direct suppliers can take advantage of the code and the protection it provides. Many UK growers are indirect suppliers and are working through intermediaries. One of the issues for discussion is whether the remit of the code should be extended to cover indirect suppliers.

If we are going to reverse the trend of declining UK production and aspire to producing more fruit and veg here in the UK, we need to build an environment in which growers feel that that they will be treated fairly and transparently by the supply chain and if by extending the remit of the Grocery Code Adjudicator this can be achieved then this is a win for the UK horticultural sector, UK jobs and UK investment.