A CROSS-PARTY delegation of MPs has met trade minister Gerry Sutcliffe to push for action on the supermarket code of practice.

The delegation was led by Lib Dem shadow DEFRA secretary Andrew George who has been campaigning for measures to protect farmers from the power of supermarkets.

The code of practice is supposed to be used by farmers to ensure fair play in their dealings with supermarkets.

But an OFT report in April showed that no producers had used the code since 2001, fearing reprisals from the supermarkets if complaints were made.

The OFT is currently nearing completion of an audit of the code, and is likely to report by the end of the year.

In the meeting, Mr George argued for a date to be given for the publication of the audit and a timetable for delivery.

“Supermarkets which use their market muscle against smaller players and suppliers are behaving entirely rationally,” he said.

“Not doing so would allow their competitors to gain the upper hand. The question is whether this is justifiable use of power or an unacceptable abuse.

“But while the competition minister and the OFT are pondering this question, farmers and suppliers are being screwed to the floor by supermarkets.

“They need and deserve a date for the audit‘s publication and a timetable for delivery.”

Mr George said it was imperative the code was strengthened to stop current practices which were strangling the farming industry.

While supermarkets profited, many farmers and growers were finding it difficult to make ends meet, he said.