29 October 1999
Supermarket support a passing fad?

By Vicky Houchin

SUPERMARKETS claim to be rallying behind British farmers following the launch of a campaign to encourage clearer labelling of British produce.

But some producers are worried the new drive to “Buy British” may be nothing more than a passing fad.

A new “kite-mark” for British produce was announced by NFU president Ben Gill and backed by farm minister Nick Brown on Wednesday.

“Were giving [consumers] what they want,” said Mr Gill at the launch. “Its a win for farmers because it will drive demand for British produce.”

The launched followed the release of an NFU-commissioned report which said consumers found country-of-origin labelling difficult to find in supermarkets.

A spokeswoman from Asda said the multiple was very supportive of British farmers and used point of sale material to encourage shoppers to buy British.

In the wake of Frances refusal to accept British beef, the retailer has already switched to more British suppliers.

“Theres no reason why these new arrangements will not continue after the crisis is over,” said an Asda spokeswoman.

But Tesco, Britains largest supermarket, said it was not running any Buy British campaign and had no plans to do so.

“Its up to our customers and we have to give them choice, said a spokeswoman.

Budgens, which has been keen to publicise its dumping of French, declined to say whether it would return to buying French once the current crisis was over.

“We havent committed ourselves to the future yet. It depends how the situation evolves,” a Budgens spokesman commented.

Somerfield also claims to have backed British farmers by buying more British food but this action was not a tit for tat gesture, said a company spokeswoman.

“Theres been a good British harvest we have been able to do this.”

James Nicholls, chairman of English Apples and Pears Limited, feared that the retailers reluctance to buy French wont last long.

“To date, the prices we have received have been insufficient to give growers an adequate return,” he said.

But Peter Gadd, chairman of Nottingham NFU, believes farmers shouldnt be negative about supermarkets current enthusiasm.

“If supermarkets can see an opportunity in this crisis to buy more British product we should be pleased,” he said.

“We all know they [supermarkets are driven and motivated by profit but while on board lets keep then there. We need to be positive.”