Call for growers to speak out on treatment by retail giants

The Competition Commission needs more evidence in its high-profile study

Supermarket suppliers have been urged to reveal unfair treatment they have experienced from buyers as part of a critical study. The Competition Commission (CC) released its “emerging thinking document” looking at the market for the supply of groceries, which highlighted the striking disparity between booming profits at retail level and marginal incomes for growers. But CC chairman Peter Freeman said it had “not received as much specific evidence about unfair treatment of suppliers as we might have expected”. NFU chief horticultural adviser Phil Hudson said growers are in a “Catch 22 situation” where they are concerned about losing contracts with retailers if they speak out, but unless they do things cannot improve. He said the study was a second chance to give evidence. He said: “What we are seeing here is a watershed moment for the industry. This is probably the last time anyone will be looking at the grocery market for a long time. If they have no evidence from growers then there’s nothing any of us can do. [Growers] have been assured confidentiality.” Freeman said it was felt some growers are holding back information. He added: “There may well be many more examples out there but we need to hear them otherwise we would have difficulty coming to a conclusion. “So we would appeal once more for suppliers with examples to come forward and we assure them that requests for confidentiality will be taken on board.” Hudson stressed the review was not about “attacking the major retailers” but about “creating a fair environment for all”. Although problems are worst for dairy farmers, he said growers should make every effort to speak up. NFU president Peter Kendall said: “Viable, sustainable supply chains are in the best interests of producers, processors, retailers and, above all, consumers, who can have no interest in seeing high-quality British farmers and growers being squeezed out of business.” He hoped the report would trigger growers to speak up. Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons control almost 75 per cent of the UK grocery market.

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