Friends of the Earth calls for stricter controls over supermarkets

Friends of the Earth has called on the Competition Commission to put much stricter rules in place to govern the way supermarkets deal with their suppliers, following new evidence from farmers.

The environmental group also wants to see an independent regulator to enforce the new rules. In a survey, more than one third of farmers responding told FoE that the prices paid by supermarkets barely covered their costs.

The group surveyed 100 farmers in October 2006 to find out how they were treated by the supermarkets they supplied. Just 33 farmers responded but the key findings suggested widespread abuse of power by the major retailers.


FoE supermarkets campaigner Sandra Bell said: “It is clear that farmers are still being squeezed so hard by the big supermarkets that they are struggling to make ends meet. As a result some are leaving the land. The Competition Commission now has the opportunity and the powers to put this relationship on a fairer footing. A failure to act now will be nothing short of a disaster for farmers and our countryside.”

A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium, the organisation that represents the retailers, said: “Just 31 farmers responded and I don’t believe the very selective findings of this extremely limited survey are representative of the good relationships which exist out there.”

Key Findings

  • More than a third of all farmers (35%) said that they received the same as or less than the cost of production for their produce. The vast majority of those being paid more than the cost of production were only being paid “just over”

  • A significant proportion of farmers (39%) said that their dealings with supermarkets were having a negative financial impact on their business

  • Supermarket trading practices had forced nearly a third (29%) of all farmers to put investments and innovations on hold

  • Almost a quarter (23%) of all farmers had been forced to waste packaging or re-package products as a direct result of supermarket actions. One farmer was left with over 20,000 obsolete bags due to a supermarket changing its poly-bag design

  • Full results of the survey are available at the FoE website

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