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Supermarket stranglehold report: so what's new?

[Wednesday 24 January 2007]
skipton tesco
Countryside groups critical of supermarket report

AS WE predicted yesterday, the much-heralded interim report from the Competition Commission on the growing stranglehold of the big supermarket chains on Britain's retail sector revealed very little that was new and was heavily criticised by countryside organisations hoping for radical change.

The commission said the report was to make public its "emerging thinking" on the problem, which has been blamed for making farmers and small shopkeepers bankrupt in their thousands, but it ducked most of the serious issues. The full repartee will be issued in the summer.

Apart from revealing some new and worrying statistics, it published "nothing that we haven't been talking about in the village pub for a decade or more," as one Daelnet reader commented.

Despite the fact that 1,000 dairy farmers are quitting the industry every year - because the supermarkets pay 4p a litre less than it costs to produce milk - the report merely moaned that few farmers had come forward to give evidence because they were afraid of losing the contracts to supply the supermarkets.

And it said it would have to "look into" claims that the retails giants, with Tesco in the lead, were building up huge "land banks" to prevent rivals building in their areas. There had been widespread speculation that they would be forced to sell off this land.

The Competition Commission fails to adequately address the serious concerns of primary producers and suppliers

David Fursdon - CLA

But one telling statistics stood out: since the year 2,000, three years after New Labour came to power, the number of superstores has doubled and they now control 75% of the nation's food sales.

"The Competition Commission fails to adequately address the serious concerns of primary producers and suppliers to the major retailers" snapped David Fursdon, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

'The Competition Commission's inquiry is now entering a critical period, "demanded the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). "We want its final report to stem the remorseless growth of superstores and the big retailers that dominate our food shopping and to support remedies that offer a real choice of shops with accessible, affordable local food for local communities."

Some towns have been totally swamped by Tesco stores. Bicester, Oxon, with a population of less than 30,000, has six! The only town of any size without one is Harrogate - but a planning application to build one is now under discussion.

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