A Canadian grocery industry code of conduct is still months away after the steering committee asked agricultural ministers for another extension to complete its work.
The committee reported to the July annual meeting of the country’s agriculture ministers in Saskatoon that it had made progress, but key issues remained unresolved.
Why it matters: The intent of the grocery code of conduct is to level the playing field for suppliers when dealing with a retailer.
The code has been in development since late 2020 after the first days of the pandemic highlighted friction between retailers and suppliers. The code is expected to improve transparency, predictability and fairness between those two links in the supply chain.
But the process has been contentious at times, and the committee asked ministers a year ago to appoint a facilitator to keep the discussion going. The committee had until the end of 2021 to resolve differences and come up with a code, but that was extended until this past March.
Now, ministers have agreed to a deadline of November.
Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said progress has been made and she was confident the committee would meet the new deadline.
“It is important the solution come from the industry,” Bibeau said during the closing news conference of the July federal-provincial-territorial meeting. “But they know that we are taking this seriously and we want a solution to this situation.”
According to a media release from the 10-person steering committee, the negotiations involve many players with diverse needs.
“Despite finding common ground on many of the key issues, the group continues to negotiate specifics tied to scope, what sorts of products and dealings should be covered by a code and payments, deductions, fines and fees. Both groups earlier agreed that the code should be mandatory and enforceable, once developed,” the committee said.
It also acknowledged that governments may have to step in and impose a deadline if that can’t be achieved.
The committee, which is co-chaired by Michael Graydon from Food Health and Consumer Products of Canada and Diane Brisebois from the Retail Council of Canada, said once outstanding issues are resolved there will be additional work to introduce the draft code and consult the wide number of stakeholders.
Other members of the committee represent various sectors of the food supply chain and include the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada and Quebec’s general farm organization l’Union des producteurs agricoles.