Farmers and growers who supply directly to retailers must protect themselves from unfair trading practices by learning more about the way the Groceries Supply Code of Practise (GSCOP) works, says the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).
Reporting on a recent NFU training day on how the code and its adjudicator, Christine Tacon, might be able to help suppliers, the union’s food chain adviser, Christine McDowell, urged members to up their knowledge on the subject as a “fundamental tool” of their business.
Writing one of the NFU’s regular staff blogs, Ms McDowell (pictured above) listed the following top tips for suppliers:
- Read your contract. Know what you have signed up to, even retrospectively!
- Know your Code Compliance Officers. There is one for every retailer, and they sit independently from the retailer’s buying function. They are there to ensure the retailer is complying with GSCOP, but also can be used to resolved breaches with suppliers.
- Delegate a member of your team to be the ‘expert’ in GSCOP. This will help you manage your business if you think your retailer has breached it.
- Ensure all agreements are in writing – even verbal agreements. Keep them safe.
- Train your sales teams in GSCOP. All the retailer buyers are trained by law, you should be too.
- Know the right questions to ask in negotiations e.g. “what are your terms for promotions?”
The same blog also features a personal report from an East Yorkshire egg producer (unnamed for obvious reasons), who had attended the training day and wished he, or she, had done so sooner:
“We supply directly to supermarkets and it would’ve been wonderful to have done this course around November time,” said the producer. “That’s because we’ve just gone through a tender process and on the contracts that have come back for signing there have been one or two issues where the supermarkets have changed the contract from 12 months to 18 months with no negotiation. Had we known where we stood, it would have given us the ideal opportunity to push back.
“When you first start dealing with supermarkets you agree to things because it’s your first foot in the door without being fully aware of what you’re agreeing to; therefore the training has been hugely beneficial knowing that you don’t have to sign up to an unfair deal”