22 May 1998
Tesco restates plan to drop live auctions…
By Johann Tasker
SUPERMARKET Tesco has reasserted its plans to phase out the use of traditional livestock auctions for buying cattle and sheep.
David Sawday, Tescos corporate affairs manager, told the audience at a farmer-organised meeting that the chain had based its success on delivering exactly what consumers demanded. And he said consumer research showed customers preferred meat from cattle bought direct from the farm rather than from livestock auctions.
“Supermarkets are pretty simple businesses, they stand or fall on what their customers buy,” Mr Sawday told the meeting of about 60 farmers in Stalisbury Green, Kent. “And our customers say buying animals from livestock auctions is less welfare friendly than buying animals direct from farmers.”
By the end of this year, Tesco aims to completely by-pass the traditional livestock auctions by sourcing all of its cattle direct from farms. It plans to buy all of its sheep direct by the end of the year 2000. But Mr Sawday rejected allegations that the demise of the open bidding system of buying cattle would eventually enable Tesco to dictate the price it paid farmers.
“This is not some Machiavellian plot to make people bow to the heel of Tesco,” he said. “This is simply delivering what the consumer wants. We live in a free market economy and you are free to sell your cattle to whoever you want. You are business people and you can decide to sell through livestock auctions if you want to. But we believe we do a better job and I honestly do not think we need them.”
|Sawday: Livestock auctions not needed|
Many of those at the meeting, including farmers, auctioneers and feed merchants, disagreed. Richard Wood, a local auctioneer from Ashford, said buying cattle from an auction was more welfare friendly than collecting animals using a lorry driven from farm to farm.
“You are using the welfare issue as a stick to beat livestock auctions and you are wrong,” he said.
John Turnbull, a local feed specialist from Canterbury, said the records kept by farmers belonging to the Tesco Producer Club could be used to calculate how much it cost to rear cattle. Tesco would soon be in a position to cut the price it paid farmers to such a level that profits became minimal, he claimed.
For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 22-28 May, 1998