01 December 1998
Asda denies ripping off consumers when livestock prices tumble

By Vicky Houchin

ASDA has hit back at claims that supermarkets are failing to pass on falling livestock prices to customers.

Supermarket milk produce manager John Cleland agreed yesterday afternoon (Monday) that many big retailers dont really mind where they source their products, as long as they make their returns.

But in a debate on supermarket power at the Smithfield Show, he said Asda had passed on to its customers any savings made from falling livestock prices.

Retail meat prices have remained steady despite plummeting livestock prices which have fallen as much as 36% this season.

But Asda has been a long supporter of British meat, said Mr Cleland.

“When the BSE crisis hit we stood by the British farmers and banned European meat just like our meat was banned in Europe,” he said.

“More recently, we have firmly supported British pork, and since August 1998 we have sourced solely British.”

Simon Mountjoy of consultants Brown and Co warned farmers that supermarkets which sell only British meat will not increase farmgate prices.

Mr Mountjoy urged farmers to increase their bargaining when dealing with supermarkets by forming marketing groups and employing professional marketing staff

“They must be big enough to make the supermarkets listen to them, and must be professional,” said Mr Mountjoy.

“The reason other groups have failed is because theyre no good at marketing.”

David Owen, secretary of live exporters Farmers Ferry, said producer prices needed to get much nearer retail prices.

“Were good business men – its just a pity as farmers we were not in a position where we could stand up to them before,” he said.

“The supermarkets are on top of their job, and we must be on top of ours.”

But Poul Christensen, chairman of Milk Marque, warned that it would be detrimental for farmers to take a stand against supermarkets.

“We need to understand each other and come together to invest in our future,” he said.

“No-one is going to help farmers but themselves. Supermarkets are here to stay – like them or hate them.”