Regulation is not working

A report published by a Scottish Parliament committee has raised questions over supermarket power.

The report, An Inquiry into the Food Supply Chain by the Parliament’s Environment and Rural Development Committee, concluded that the system of regulating supermarkets is failing farmers and consumers.

NFU Scotland urged the Competition Commission to take on board the report and Scottish MPs voiced their concern that consumers would be denied access to quality Scottish food because of the squeeze on supermarket suppliers and farmers.

Among a number of recommendations, MSPs called on the commission to seriously consider a strengthened supermarket code of practice, which benefited from independent enforcement.

“The presumption to date has been that the big retailers have been nothing but good news for consumers,” said NFUS president John Kinnaird.

“However, this report makes it crystal clear that the short-term drive for cheaper and cheaper food is jeopardising the future supply of quality Scottish food, with consumers set to pay the penalty in the long run.

This report should be a wake-up call for the competition authorities and the major supermarkets.”

Mr Kinnaird said that too often, relationships between supermarkets and their suppliers were “shaped by fear and, at worst, exploitation”.

He said the Supermarket Code had failed because suppliers were too scared to complain and he called for an independent auditor to police it.

The Environment and Rural Development Committee also recognised the industry’s concerns over the lack of development of farmer-owned co-operatives and burdensome regulation.