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Big welcome for supermarket probe

[Wednesday 22 August 2007]
Big welcome for supermarket probe

REPORTS that the Competition Commission are studying thousands of emails between buyers at Tesco and Asda to seek evidence of "bullying" to their food suppliers is a victory in the long campaign by landowners and farmers against alleged blackmail.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has been demanding for several years a major government enquiry into payments made to supermarket suppliers, often so low as to drive them into bankruptcy.

But such enquiries in the past failed because many farmers and market gardeners were afraid to give evidence, fearing they would lose future contracts.

Now, the CLA has welcomed news of the move by the Competition Commission to step up its investigation into how the bigger retailers are treating their suppliers, saying that it may confirm, or otherwise, the concerns that the CLA has been expressing for several years.

In March 2003 over 30 organisations including small food producers, print and packaging suppliers, fruit and vegetable associations met at the CLA's London HQ to discuss the failure of the Supermarket Code of Practice to halt alleged bully-boy tactics by Britain's supermarkets.

We have been aware of allegations of bullying tactics by supermarkets for many years

Carole Hodgson - CLA

This led the CLA to call for an independent investigation in June 2005, when it became increasingly obvious that the code was not effective in ensuring a fair deal for the smaller supplier.

Carole Hodgson, Assistant Regional Director CLA North said: "The news that the Competition Commission appears to be treating the matter extremely seriously and is gathering actual evidence has to be welcomed.

"We have been aware of allegations of bullying tactics by supermarkets for many years, but unsurprisingly many small producers were unwilling to go public with their complaints for fear of reprisals that could put their businesses in jeopardy."

"Whatever the outcome of this investigation, and I hope that it will be thorough, it has to be good for the industry in the long term, and will hopefully ensure that everyone in the food chain gets their fair share of the profits in this huge market."

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