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Tesco 'on better terms with suppliers'

The relationship between Tesco suppliers and the supermarket has improved since a critical report from an industry watchdog, it's been claimed.

Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) Christine Tacon attended a seminar for food and drink suppliers at Stormont yesterday.

Her January report, which covered the period from June 2013 to February 2015, was highly critical of Tesco and how it interacted with its suppliers.

And while vegetable growers in Northern Ireland have raised concerns over how much they are paid by supermarkets, Ms Tacon said her office did not cover pricing policy.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph ahead of the event, she said there had been problems such as incorrect sums being entered on invoices by Tesco.

"The mistakes were rectified, but they were rectified more slowly when they were in favour of Tesco than when they were in favour of the supplier," she said.

Tesco had also attempted to deduct sums which it was owed by suppliers from the sums it paid to them.

But Ms Tacon said she had no information on whether relationships were any different for Tesco suppliers in Northern Ireland.

The seminar was supported by the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (Nifda).

And Ms Tacon said the conduct of Tesco and other suppliers would be more strictly monitored in future. "In particular, I have set a seven-day deadline for resolving pricing errors and stopped the retailer from making unilateral deductions from money owed for goods supplied," she added.

"Suppliers will have 30 days to challenge any proposed deduction and then Tesco will not be able to make the deduction until the disagreement is resolved."

She is to hold a separate consultation into practices such as allocation of shelf space and category management in supermarkets.

Michael Bell, executive director of Nifda, said the adjudicator and the Groceries Supply Code of Practice had "the potential to transform the historic imbalance between suppliers and retailers".

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