13 November 1998
Keep big supermarkets down or ‘face disaster’

By FW Staff

THE spread of the big supermarkets needs to be controlled to prevent disastrous consequences for agriculture and rural areas, a conference was told this week.

Caroline Cranbrook, working partner in the 348ha Great Glemham Farms in Suffolk, said many of the countrys small and medium-sized stock and vegetable farms would not survive if the supermarkets took even greater control of food distribution and retailing.

She told the Keep Britain Farm Shopping conference that the smaller producers were unable to supply the national supermarket chains because they did not have the required economies of scale.

Their outlets would disappear if small independent stores, including farm shops, were forced out of business by the development of new supermarkets in rural areas.

Lady Cranbrook, who controls 303ha of arable crops and 44ha of grass supporting 300 sheep, was speaking at a conference of Bury St Edmunds organised by the Farm Retail Association and attended by 140 delegates from all over the UK.

She called on the Government to be more pro-active through the planning process to control the growth of supermarkets and protect farm shops which, she said, were significant providers of employment in rural areas.

“Positive steps must be taken to foster what is left of our local food economies,” Lady Cranbrook said.

And she called for the setting up of a MAFF/Department of Trade and Industry task force with special responsibility for small food producers, wholesalers and retailers.

A Government investigation should also be launched to gauge whether EU Commission regulations were being over-applied in the UK food-producing industry, she suggested.