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New call for supermarket Ombudsman

[Wednesday 18 February 2009]

What is evident is that there are many fine niche examples of food production and marketing in the region, but until our pleas for an independent ombudsman are answered, many will remain niche and unable to move to the next level.

Dr Charles Trotman - CLA

FARMERS and land-owners would be better equipped to answer Government calls to provide more locally produced food if it acted on a long-stranding demand to create a supermarket Ombudsman, a senior member of the Country Land and Business Association said yesterday. The CLA and other farming organisations have been pressing for some years for such an appointment because, they claim, the supermarkets have a stranglehold over the nation’s food supplies and often ignore small, local food producers.

The CLA appointed Dr Charles Trotman to investigate this alleged prejudice against small suppliers and after a fact-finding tour of the North West he repeated calls for the appointment of an independent ombudsman "to alleviate the stranglehold which supermarkets continue to influence over smaller suppliers."

Dr Trotman said: "What is evident is that there are many fine niche examples of food production and marketing in the region, but until our pleas for an independent ombudsman are answered, many will remain niche and unable to move to the next level.

"The initiative is there, the enterprise is there, and we can even prove that the confidence is there. Yet whilst there are other barriers to enterprise that rural businesses have to overcome – such as access to affordable broadband – the appointment of an Independent Ombudsman, with the authority that role would carry, is absolutely vital in maintaining the confidence and trust of suppliers in the food chain.

"Only when all smaller producers have the confidence that they will be dealt with fairly across the board by the big buyers, will they be prepared to invest and produce the quality, quantity and consistency of product that will enable them to move out of the niche into the mainstream – and that can only benefit the wider rural economy."

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