FARMERS and other food producers throughout the UK are fuming this morning after Office of Fair Trading officials ducked out of a meeting to discuss the vexed question of fair payments by the big four supermarket chains.
As we reported yesterday, a survey has shown that the supermarkets are still bullying small producers into accepting low prices - so low that some have gone out of business - despite the drawing up last year of a code of practice agreed by all parties, including the OFT.
Farmers want the code made legally enforceable and a meeting had been organised by the Country Landowners' and Business Association to discuss the matter in secret with some 40 producer organisations, many of whom feared they would be discriminated against is supermarket buyers learned of the meeting.
But the OFT pulled out of the meeting at the last minute, enraging many of the people who had made the often long journey to CLA HQ in London. Said the CLA's North Western director Douglas Chalmers: "It is very disappointing that the OFT has not taken the opportunity to meet these important links in the food chain to hear how the current code is apparently failing.
"If they are to review the Code effectively, they must listen to the real problems being faced and to all possible solutions. It is regrettable that they are missing a real opportunity to meet those whose businesses and livelihoods are affected by it."