05 June 1998
Government pressed on supermarket meat pricing

By Martin Hickman, Press Association

SUPERMARKETS selling meat bought from struggling farmers should be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading, a Labour MP suggested yesterday.

Huw Edwards (Monmouth) told the Commons he backed the Welsh Affairs Select Committees recommendation to refer supermarket pricing of meat to the OFT – the retail watchdog.

He made his call after fellow Labour MP Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) suggested the retail food chains were making large mark-ups on lamb.

Mr Wyatt pressed ministers at question time: “Could you bear in mind that farmers in my constituency reckon that it costs them 38p a pound to raise lamb?

“They can only sell it at 43p a pound at Ashford. They see it at Sainsburys or Tescos or ASDA at £2.78 a pound.

“Is there a chance that within the Food Standards Agency we could consider a regulator for supermarkets?”

Jack Cunningham, farm minister replied: “The answer to that is, no.”

Later, Mr Edwards asked junior farm minister Elliot Morley: “Do you appreciate the dismay of farmers in my constituency of Monmouthshire who see their farming incomes decline and yet a supermarket chain like Tesco claim they make no money on the retailing of meat?

He challenged the minister: “Will you join me in commending the investigation by the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and their recommendation that this whole matter should be referred to the Director of Fair Trading?”

Mr Morley replied: “I certainly accept that there is concern within the agricultural sector about the role of the retailers in certain ways.

“However, it should be said that the retailers have also played a very positive role in both developing markets and in driving up standards, he added.

  • “Supermarket pricing should be investigated by OFT” – report, FWi, 20 May — Click here