ANDREW GEORGE MP, Liberal Democrat shadow rural affairs minister, has urged the government to protect foot suppliers and introduce a food trade inspector.

Commenting on Tesco‘s announcement of further sales and market share increases, Mr George said that a food trade inspector under the Office of Fair Trading was needed.

“I don‘t criticise any of the big four supermarkets for using every ounce of their power to pressurise and bully their suppliers, including the farmers, who are going out of business in their droves.”

“Supermarkets operate within the laws of their jungle.”

“The bottom line is profitability and growth. Being nice to their suppliers doesn‘t really come into it. To an extent, you can‘t blame the supermarkets for that,” Mr George said.

But he added that it is now time for the government to take action to protect UK food suppliers.

“The scales have tipped too far in favour of supermarkets,” he said.

“The creation of a food trade inspector, within the Office of Fair Trading, given powers to proactively monitor the nature of contractual relationships between supermarkets and supplier organisations would help to tip the scales back to a more equitable system of commerce.”

Mr George said that the current situation is unsustainable for British farming in the long term.

Tesco has reported that its total UK sales for the twelve weeks ending on May 22 were up 11.1%, significantly ahead of its competitors.

Chief executive Terry Leahy said: “I am particularly pleased that our core UK food business has continued to grow market share and to perform very strongly in the first quarter.”