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Petition calls for supermarket power to be reduced

[Friday 11 August 2006]

A LEADING countryside organisation is calling on the public to support its campaign to curb the power of the leading supermarkets in their dealings with farmers and producers.

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Petition targets supermarket power

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has launched a petition calling for the Government to redress the balance between suppliers and supermarkets so that family businesses can continue to trade and that the British public is given a real choice.

The organisation, which has invested considerable resources in its various food initiatives, is now asking the general public to support its campaign and visitors to the English National Sheepdog Trials event in the Yorkshire Dales town of Kirkby Lonsdale this weekend will be able to add their names.

Douglas Chalmers, Director CLA North explains: "The last few years have seen what appears to be an exponential growth in the power of the main grocery retailers in the UK. The CLA accepts that consumers are now used to doing the majority of their food shopping in supermarkets, and that many may be satisfied by the current choice of products. However, we are concerned that this situation may come with a cost.

"We believe that now is the time that the grocery market was brought into balance and with far greater transparency for everyone involved. Only then will suppliers and producers be able to receive a fair price for the goods they provide to the public.

"We are therefore calling on the government to redress the imbalance between suppliers and supermarkets so that family businesses are able to continue trading. If we lose these suppliers, the British public may miss out as they lose their ability to choose from a wide range of wholesome, nutritious and top quality products. Consumers expect genuine choice. This move has to be demand led, but I believe the demand is there."

We believe that now is the time that the grocery market was brought into balance and with far greater transparency for everyone involved

Douglas Chalmers - CLA

The CLA says that the very buying power of the supermarkets leads to distortion of the market to the detriment of suppliers, the creation of a climate of fear amongst suppliers and producers who are unwilling to provide evidence of alleged abuse by the supermarkets and uneconomic trading conditions where the prices paid to producers and suppliers are so low as to make a business simply uneconomic to continue.

The CLA view the current Competition Commission inquiry into the grocery sector as an opportunity to force through change and redress the imbalance.

They are calling on the Commission to:

  • Issue a clear statement that the anonymity of a producer or supplier giving evidence is legally guaranteed

  • Recommend the creation of an Independent Ombudsman to guarantee the rights of suppliers in the event of a dispute

  • Fully analyse the practice of below-cost selling in order to establish the distorting effect on the market

  • Replace the two market definition in the grocery sector (multiple stores and convenience) with one market given the expansion of the major retailers into the convenience store sector

Mr Chalmers continued: "The more support we can gather, the more likely we are to succeed, which is why I am asking people to visit our website and add their names to the increasing list of people who want to support our smaller, local producers."

The petition, which was launched at this year's CLA Game Fair, can be found online at www.cla.org.uk - just follow the link from the homepage.

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