The Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA), Christine Tacon, has offered guidance to retailers and suppliers to ensure customers have access to food and other essentials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supermarkets and other retailers have been under considerable strain following the outbreak, with consumers stockpiling on certain food items such as pasta and tinned food.

The GCA has now offered retailers the following guiding principles to assist retailers and suppliers deliver continuity of supply to consumers, as far as this remains possible given significant pressures on staffing and some customer buying habits. Tacon said: “Nothing in the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (the Code) requires any regulated retailer to break any other legal requirement. The Code should be read compatibly with all other legal obligations placed on regulated retailers.

“The GCA cannot offer a view as to whether current circumstances amount to force majeure.”

She continued: “From a practical point of view, retailers will want to agree a way with suppliers to meet the most pressing objectives of the situation as it develops. The GCA would expect all parties to work together constructively to achieve this.

“Examples include effective communication on both sides, and an appreciation that e.g. reasonable notice provisions in the Code will need to be considered in light of the rapidly changing situation. Notice periods may need to be short to address challenges at the earliest possible opportunity. Suppliers should not wait to raise issues with retailers.”