ChristineTacon

SUPERMARKET ombudsman Christine Tacon has a tightrope to walk as she oversees the relationship between Britain’s retail giants and their suppliers.

In effect, the government has appointed the former boss of Britain’s biggest farming company to become Britain’s first supermarket watchdog.

It’s an interesting appointment – not least because farmers have long complained that big retailers unfairly wield their power to put pressure on food producers.

Of course, it isn’t all about farmers vs supermarkets. But farmers have been at the forefront of a campaign for a retail adjudicator.

The job specification could almost have been written for Ms Tacon, who has direct experience of the agricultural industry as well as the retail sector it supplies.

Until a year ago, she was managing director of Britain’s biggest farming business, Co-operative Farms, which farms 34,400ha as part of the Co-operative Group.

Her biggest achievement during 11 years at the £60m business was turning a £6m annual loss into a £6m annual profit.

Publicly, farm leaders and retail bosses will welcome Ms Tacon’s appointment.

After all, both sides have to work with her and both sides will be keen to ensure that any relationship gets off to a good start.

Privately, though, it may well be a different matter.

They might not say so openly, but retailers will be keen to ensure Ms Tacon doesn’t get too cosy with the farming community she is part of.

For their part, farmers will be keeping a close watch in the opposite direction.

As she takes up her new role, Ms Tacon will be determined to demonstrate her impartiality – and it is a fine balance to strike.

On the plus side, her knowledge of the food supply chain could make it harder for retailers and farmers to pull the wool over her eyes.

It won’t be easy – but if she plays it right, her experience of both the agricultural and retail sectors could be a real advantage in ensuring fair play.