Sir Julian Lewis: Like many other Members here, I was not aware of this issue until several constituents contacted me. Does the hon. Lady know whether there is any mechanism whereby small farmers and other suppliers can report it to the regulator when they are put in this difficult situation as a result of promises to make purchases not being kept? I do not see how the regulator can regulate if they do not have adequate information about where suppliers are being let down.
[Christina Rees: The right hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. Applications are made to the adjudicator, but there is a certain amount of confidentiality involved, and sometimes the farmers reporting want to remain anonymous, so some reporting is done behind the scenes. However, I thank him so much for his intervention; as always, he makes a very valuable point, and it would be interesting to hear what the Minister says about it.]
[The Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries (Mark Spencer): :… The petition asks the Government to amend the groceries supply code of practice to better protect farmers from “unfair behaviour”. The Government want all farmers to receive a fair price for their products, and we are committed to tackling contractual unfairnesses in the agrifood supply chain. We recognise that some poor practices affect producers across several agricultural sectors. We are taking action to address them, but we do not believe that amending the code is the most appropriate way to do so. The key issue is that relatively few farmers sell directly to supermarkets. Far more often, they sell their produce through intermediaries and processors, and the Government are therefore committed to using powers in the Agriculture Act to introduce statutory codes that apply across the whole supply chain to deliver fair prices to all farmers. … Last year, we launched two further reviews into egg and fresh produce supply chains. The public consultation on the egg sector supply chain closed on 22 December, and we are in the process of analysing the responses. As I said, the review into fresh produce was published on 14 December and closes on 22 February. Anything that hon. and right hon. Members can do to promote that to their constituents, so that they can feed into it, would be very welcome. We will publish the responses for each review within 12 weeks of the closing dates, and we will provide a summary of the findings and our next steps for each sector. We can only decide what action is needed once we have analysed the responses, but I can assure Members that we will use the powers in the Agriculture Act to introduce legislation wherever it is necessary. ...]