By Jonathan Riley
The Competition Commission has delayed by three months the publication of its report on the possible abuse of supermarkets’ trading power.
The independent watchdog said the delay to its Groceries Inquiry, until February 2008, was needed to consider the growing mass of evidence from suppliers, processors and supermarkets.
Evidence from farmers has also grown steadily since January, when the commission said it needed more information from the farming industry to help it reach a conclusion (News, 26 January).
But the number remains small, with just 23 so far writing submissions on their experiences of working with the big retailers. Many of those who have submitted evidence are dairy producers.
One, from Gloucestershire, said: “We note that few farmers responded to your invitation for evidence. We expect you to recognise that ‘no evidence’ does not equate to ‘no problem’.”
It added: “We share difficulties with every dairy farmer not fortunate enough – just a few are – to hold a contract from one of the more enlightened milk buyers who are passing back a decent share of the retail price. Such contracts are hard to come by for historic or location reasons.”
An anonymous group of dairy farmers added that when retailers felt the need for a price hike, they told the processor, co-ops and PLCs alike that, as from such a date, the price would drop. “We can do nothing about it, except sell up,” the group said.
A number of dairy farmers have now written to the
Competition Commission – but numbers are still low.
The Groceries Inquiry was referred by the Office of Fair Trading to the Competition Commission on 9 May 2006. The aim is to investigate whether there has been a prevention, restriction or distortion of competition in the grocery market. The final deadline for making submissions remains early September 2007.
To view the full list of submissions so far visit www.competition-commission.org.uk and click on the investigations tab on the home page. The groceries market inquiry link can then be found on the left hand side.
To contact the commission phone 020 7271 0243 or via email using firstname.lastname@example.org