23 August 1999
Supermarkets to display farm prices?
By FWi staff
THE government could decide to force supermarkets to display the amount they pay farmers for the livestock which ends up as meat on shelves, it has emerged.
Ministers are considering the proposals which have been drawn up inside the Department of Trade and Industry, according to yesterdays Sunday Times.
Government sources told the paper that ministers were being forced to act by the huge disparity between prices paid to farmers and the prices charged to shoppers.
The ruling is expected to cover meat, vegetables and fruit in an effort to appease farmers who have accused supermarkets of failing to pass on savings to shoppers.
Consumer affairs minister Kim Howells has been ordered by Tony Blair to draw up a “twin pricing” campaign to lead the fight against overcharging, the paper said.
Mr Howells was quoted as saying that reductions in farm-gate prices had not been passed on to the consumer.
“There needs to be much more transparency in pricing so that people can see the difference between what they are paying and the cost of the goods at source”.
The news was welcomed by farmers leaders and growers representatives, many of whom have accused supermarkets of profiteering at the expense of producers.
John Breach, chairman of the British Independent Fruit Growers Association, told the paper said growers were “getting a fair price for their produce at the moment.”
The move towards dual-pricing in Britain follows a similar scheme which was launched in France last week after months of pressure from French farmers.
The French scheme will run for three months before the Paris government decides whether it has embarrassed supermarkets into paying farmers better prices.
Back in the UK, the National Farmers Union (NFU) claims figures from the Ministry of Agriculture and National Office of Statistics prove farmers are losing out.
NFU analysts have calculated that the average UK farm-gate price of 166p/kg for lamb was marked up by 280% to an average retail price of 630p/kg during June.
The union claims farm-gate beef prices were marked up during the same month from 173p/kg to 585p/kg before the meat reached customers shopping baskets.
Pigmeat was marked up by 224% from 86p/kg to 278p/kg, and milk was marked up by 253% from 17p per litre to 60ppl, the NFU says.
Furthermore, it claims that broiler chickens were marked up by 215% from 69p/kg to 217p/kg; and eggs were marked up by 439% from 26p/dozen to 140p.
The union has also calculated that dessert apples were marked up by 198% from 35p/kg to 104p/kg, and pears were marked up by 211% from 39p/kg to 121p/kg.
Tomatoes were marked up by 132% from 53p/kg to 123p/kg, it claims.