TV chef backs move to curb multiples ' power –

TV chef backs move to curb multiples ‘ power Published:  28 February, 2007

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

SUPERMARKET power has devastating implications for people and the environment according to TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

In a speech tonight,the chef and other speakers will call on the Government to take action to stop the “environmental and social damage” caused they claim by the UK’s biggest supermarket chains.

This includes limiting the growth of the retailers, strengthening planning rules and ensuring effective controls on how

they treat suppliers.

The public meeting in London organised by ActionAid, Friends of the Earth, War on Want and Tescopoly, will “expose” how the rapid growth of supermarkets around the world is “wreaking havoc” on farmers, workers, consumers and the environment.Experts and activists on the front line of supermarkets’ snowballing power will tell how they are fighting back and what people can do to challenge the status quo.

Friends of the Earth says this meeting comes at a crucial time for shoppers, farmers and suppliers as the Competition Commission is investigating whether the UK’s big four supermarkets are abusing their power.At the same time, a proposed shake up of UK planning rules could allow the supermarkets to gain an even stronger grip on our towns and neighbourhoods.Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said before the meeting:”It’s a major scandal that the supermarkets have been allowed to have such a corrosive effect on the local and ultimately national food culture.Local producers are bullied and even busted by the aggressive tactics of the supermarket whilst many shopping centres, once the heart of the community,have been standardised or gutted by retail totalitarianism.We need to shout loud for far tighter curbs on supermarket growth and for strong protection for suppliers and shopping diversity.” Rosie Boycott, the broadcaster and journalist who will chair a debate on the issue said:” The supermarkets are having an increasingly bad effect on farming and the food we eat. Anything that can be done to limit their power, their scope and their reach must be done”

Stacey Mitchell,(US Wal-mart campaigner and author said:” The U.S provides an alarming picture of where the UK is headed if it does not take steps to check the market power of the big superstores and to protect its local businesses and town centres.In less than two decades, large retail chains have become the most powerful corporations in the U.S., transforming the landscape, killing countless downtowns, and destroying tens of thousands of locally owned businesses. Superstores are fuelling many of our most pressing problems, from the shrinking middle class to rising air pollution and diminished civic engagement. “

Mireya Rodriguez,a Costa Rica banana workers’ representative said:

” I’ve come all this way to inform consumers, the supermarkets and trade unions in Britain about the negative impact on us workers of the companies squeezing our wages and conditions because of

their price wars.The lower the prices your supermarkets pay their suppliers, the worse it is for us – the suppliers don’t want to employ women any more because they say we cost more, and if we choose to join a union, then they try to sack us. “

Tony Juniper, Director of Friend of the Earth said :

“People are increasingly aware of the hidden consequences of

supermarket power. The low prices they force down the food chain

that prevent farmers and workers from earning a living wage, the

market pressures that force growers to use more chemical-intensive

methods, the destruction of local shops, the traffic they generate

and the food miles they clock up, thus helping to accelerate

climate change. With power comes dominance and with dominance can

emerge abuse, and that is the stage we have reached now, and only

official agencies can challenge that. That is why urgent robust

action by the Competition Commission and by government is needed

to ensure that supermarkets are regulated.If official bodies

can’t stand up to these ever more powerful corporate giants, then

who can? “