THE OFFICE of Fair Trading has been asked to open a new investigation into supermarket dominance in the grocery market.

Four groups made the application – Friends of the Earth, The Association of Convenience Stores, the National Federation of Women‘s Institutes and the campaign group Farm.

Collectively they argued that market concentration by the big four supermarkets has accelerated rapidly since the most recent OFT investigation in 2000.

The application highlights the damaging impacts of market concentration on small stores, farmers and consumer choice, the group said.

Sandra Bell, FoE‘s supermarket campaigner, added: “The domination of the grocery market by the biggest supermarkets has been allowed to increase, unchecked, since the last investigation over four years ago.

“The OFT has so far turned a deaf ear on concerns about loss of small shops, bullying of suppliers and erosion of consumer choice,” she said.

NFWI chairman Barbara Gill said that the “unfair practices of the biggest supermarkets were continuing unabated to the detriment of farmers and consumers”.

The OFT acknowledged receipt of the application but, although it agreed to consider the application, it would not promise a new market review.

The call for an investigation was welcomed by Lib Dem shadow agriculture secretary Andrew George MP, who said that an inquiry into supermarkets and convenience stores was long overdue.

“The overwhelming buying power of supermarkets is not only killing off independent retailers but is creating an unhealthy dependence among farmers. In the long term, that can only lead to more farmers going out of business,” Mr George said.

Protest closes in on London
Supporters of farming support group Farm‘s Just Milk campaign gathered outside Tesco‘s flagship store in Earls Court, London, on Saturday (Nov 27) to put pressure on the retail giant to take a lead in bringing poverty milk prices to an end. A 6m x 3m billboard banner was erected next to the A4 announcing the crisis in the dairy industry. “People in cars were honking in support, and there was great support from Tesco customers too,” said campaign co-ordinator Robert Alderson. This Saturday (Dec 4) the campaign moves to Tesco‘s Bedford Street store in Covent Garden, Central London.