European Commission launches investigation into retailer conduct

The European Commission is set to investigate supermarket supply and pricing strategies after complaints that producers across Europe are being bullied by retailers.

In an unprecedented step, the Commission recommended an EU-level investigation after identifying a number of distortions and irregularities in the supply chain.

The investigation will come ahead of a supply chain road map, due to be unveiled by the Commission next year.

The road map will will examine ways of improving the way supply chains across the EU function,The move was hailed as “significant” by the NFU, as it was the first time the Commission had commented on the pressures producers faced from retailers.

Meurig Raymond, NFU deputy president, welcomed the move, which came after he visited the European Parliament to gather support for an EU-wide ombudsman to monitor retailer buying practices.

He said concerns over the security of food supplies meant retailers should work harder than ever to build better relationships with suppliers and ensure they are treated fairly.

“There are concerns in countries across Europe about the weakness of primary producers in the supply chain,” Mr Raymond told Farmers Weekly.

“We are looking for a supermarket ombudsman across Europe. We want someone who disgruntled or bullied suppliers can go to without fear of being victimised.”

Mr Raymond said while the majority of retailers were trying to build “reasonable relationships” with suppliers to guarantee security of supplies, the NFU still received complaints from farmers.

“It’s unbelievable that this imbalance of power still exists,” he said.

“Hopefully the European Commission’s investigations will bolster calls for an ombudsman in the UK and readdress the balance in the supply chain.”

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