Grower defends supermarkets in Competition Commission inquiry

Dealing with major retailers is like "is like any other business relationship"

By Sophie Barnett A leading grower has defended the record of the supermarkets in a submission to the Competition Commission, saying relationships with them are no different to commercial relationships between any trading businesses. Operations manager Terry Hawthorn of Cambridgeshire-based vegetable grower Albert Bartlett urged growers to stand up to supermarkets to get the best deals in the same way that any business would with its trading partners. Albert Bartlett is the sole grower and supplier of carrots, parsnips and onions to Somerfield and supplies up to 65 per cent of carrots and parsnips to Tesco. The company is also a large-scale potato supplier from its Scottish base. Describing Albert Bartlett’s submission to the Competition Commission’s inquiry into the market for the supply of groceries (Grower, 1 February) as “fairly positive”, he said the company’s experience was that working with the supermarkets was similar to any “commercial relationship between trading businesses.” He added: “It’s like any business relationship where we have to stick up for ourselves. You need to stand up for yourself. The biggest fear for us is that someone will come along and steal our bit of the business. But you must hold your own.” Hawthorn said he appreciated that Albert Bartlett had a strong position in the market and had “sympathy for smaller businesses” but he said they must battle for good prices as best they can. “[Supermarkets] have competition as well. We can talk about the obscene profits that Tesco makes but it has to compete with the likes of Asda and Morrisons. So we have to be competitive too. We can’t afford to be complacent but you have to be tuned in to the way supermarkets do business.” He admitted the firm sometimes had to accept prices for produce it was not happy with but because of the volume it could make up for it. The company told the Competition Commission: “Some negotiations can be difficult. However, in our experience, the prices paid to us and our suppliers run sustainable operations.”

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