23 Jan 2007


Claire Melamed of charity ActionAid said three million people in the developing world supplied food to the leading UK supermarkets.

She said those overseas suppliers were seeing "wages and living conditions going down and down, while supermarket profits are going up and up".
this is from the BBC report on today's comments from the Competition Commission on supermarkets. Looks to me that they are unlikely to take serious action against Tescopoly, although they cautiously note that the power of the big four supermarkets may be putting pressure on farmers.


George Monbiot notes the efforts of Tesco, etc to appear green but notes the very fact that they have to sell us more and more is problematic, I think he like the CC could have been tougher. Supermarkets are a barrier to the creation of local, diverse ecological food production, those owned mutually and cooperatively like Coop and Waitrose alone have the potential (but only the potential!) of being concerned with something other than profit which depends on every increasing growth.

Monbiot notes
But there is a bigger contradiction than this, which has been overlooked by the supermarkets and by many of their critics. "The green movement," Leahy tells us, "must become a mass movement in green consumption." But what about consuming less? Less is the one thing the superstores cannot sell us. As further efficiencies become harder to extract, their growth will eventually outstrip all their reductions in the use of energy. This is not Tesco's problem alone: the green movement's alternatives still lack force.

Here is my take, in my official capacity:



Green Party Principal Speaker Dr. Derek Wall, who has been banned from every Tescos for life, today demanded an end to encroaching 'Tescopoly', urging that the Competition Commission's investigation into the grocery market must back small, independent retailers being driven out of business by the massive supermarket.

Dr. Wall commented: "The Commission was asked to investigate by the businesses that are being crushed under the weight of ever expanding supermarkets such as Tesco's - some 20% of independent shops have closed in recent years. (1)

"As the UK's largest supermarket, Tesco's vice-like grip on the market is getting tighter everyday. But growing evidence indicates that their success is partly based on trading practices that are having serious consequences for suppliers, farmers and workers worldwide, local shops and the environment.

"Tesco's holds the largest land development portfolio of all supermarkets in the UK - crucially it has more 'land banks' that act as barriers to new players entering the market place than any other supermarkets . (2)

"Although Tesco's themselves have claimed they would be surprised were this aspect of their empire criticised, it is crucial that the commission do so.

"The planning system should not be abused to ensure that 1 in 8 pounds spent in UK shops continue to fill Tesco's coffers.

Dr Wall also expressed reservations about the remit of the investigation as a whole:

"The competition commission themselves have conceded they have no power to investigate or resolve a whole raft of issues crucial to the way in which supermarkets operate in this country.

"Unless they affect competition, issues such as the environmental impact of the grocery supply chain, the composition of the high street and its impact on communities, rural land usage or employment conditions in overseas suppliers are not things they can decide on. (3)

"But it is just these matters which are of paramount importance when looking at supermarkets!

"Aside from the inherent lack of sustainability in the supermarket model of food provision, reliant as it is on massive amounts of imported, fixed-price foods and exploitative employment and sourcing practices - it has been alleged that textile workers in Bangladesh get paid as little as five pence an hour to make cheap clothes for UK companies Tesco & Asda - supermarkets are primarily responsible for the growth of clone town Britain.

"The current situation cannot continue - supermarkets have an insatiable appetite for new stores, bigger profits and increasing power over both food and non-food markets. Farmers are going out of business, small shops are closing due to aggressive competition from Tesco et al, and green spaces are being lost.

"But many of these negative affects do not fall within the commission's narrow remit.

"Greens have long-argued that the supermarket industry must be more effectively regulated if producers, consumers and the environment are to be protected

"Greens want to see:

- A block on any new take-overs by Tesco or other major supermarkets
- Stronger planning policies to protect local shops and High Streets
- A legally binding supermarket code of practice to ensure that all farmers, at home and overseas, are treated fairly.
- An independent watchdog with teeth to protect the interests of consumers, farmers and small retailers
- Rules to protect workers' rights at home and overseas


Notes for Editors

(1) The Guardian, Saturday 20th,

(2) The Guardian. Saturday 20th,
(1) Issues statement of the GROCERIES MARKET INVESTIGATION available at http://www.competition-commission.org.uk/inquiries/ref2006/grocery/ index.htm

(2) Please see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6238987.stm

(3) Please see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6238987.stm

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