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The following Press Release from campaigning group WyeCycle is dated 12 June 2003.

WyeCycle have added their support to the national 'Stop the Safeway Takeover' campaign, amid growing concerns about the concentration of market share in food retailing.

The Competition Commission is currently considering whether to allow Tesco, Asda/Walmart, Sainsbury or Morrisons to buy Safeway. If any of these deals goes ahead, then just 4 companies will control 75% of food retailing.

Richard Boden, Director of WyeCycle, says, "The battle for Safeway is finally waking people up to the fact that the power of the supermarkets lies at the heart of the problems facing local communities, UK agriculture and the global environment. Destruction of high streets, bankruptcy of family farms, pollution and congestion from increasing 'food miles', and a packaging waste mountain, are all direct results of the unchecked concentration of market share in food retailing."

The national campaign to stop the Safeway takeover is being organised by Friends of the Earth, Grassroots Action on Food and Farming, and the Small and Family Farms Alliance. The public are being asked to write to their MP, asking him/her to urge the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to stop any merger with another major supermarket.

As Richard Boden concludes, "The supermarkets have had it all their way for too long. The time has come for Government to introduce legislation to drastically reverse the concentration of market share, to the benefit of farmers, consumers and the environment."

A Summary of WyeCycle's submission to the Competition Commission
A full report on this issue is available from WyeCycle on request: Also for further details on the 'Stop the Safeway Takeover' campaign, contact Grassroots Action on Food and Farming:

The root cause of the many concerns expressed about 'supermarkets' is their power in the marketplace, quantified as a percentage share of the market. It is only logical, therefore, that what is and what isn't a supermarket must be defined by reference to a company's market share. WyeCycle would define a supermarket as 'any company responsible for more than 1% of UK food retailing'.

Using this definition, it is possible to get over the mental block affecting decision makers that "the public like shopping at supermarkets". The public do want to do all their weekly shopping under one roof, with a wide range of produce and an adjacent car park. They do not demand that such a shop is owned by a company responsible for more than 1% of UK food retailing.

Once it is accepted that the supermarket can be disinvented without the general public (ie the voter) being inconvenienced, there are two possible causes of action for Government. Most simply, legislation could be passed stating that no single business can be responsible for more than 1% of UK food retailing. Alternatively, a range of measures could be introduced with the openly stated aim of achieving the 1% figure.

  A tax on supermarket car parking spaces, set at such a level as to be revenue neutral with the tax raised being used to fund a 95% rate rebate for local independent food retailers.
  No approvals for new supermarkets or the expansion of present ones, such as extra floor space, longer opening hours, etc.
  Honest labelling, eg. 'produced abroad, under conditions which would be illegal in the UK'
  A range of legislation on issues which would favour the local over the global; deposits on bottles, charging levels to discriminate in favour of small abattoirs, increases in vehicle excise duty to add to the cost of transporting food, and all government institutions -- schools, hospitals, prisons etc -- to have a mandatory 'local food first' policy, etc.

In addition to setting out its own views, WyeCycle provided a number of papers by researchers, academics and analysts addressing the same or similar issues.

Richard Boden had the following letter published in The Farmer's Weekly of 23 May 2003, under the title "NFU gives out mixed message":

When will the NFU get its act together over market share in food retailing? One minute, president, Ben Gill, urges the public to shop with the world's biggest food retailer -- Asda/Walmart -- because it puts a Union Flag on labels (presumably to clarify which farmers are being ripped off). The next minute, head of marketing Robin Tapper tells the Competition Commission that: "If the further concentration of food retail power continues and competition reduced, the effect on farmers could be catastrophic."

Anyone who attended the recent Food in a Failed Market conference, organised by Grassroots Action on Food and Farming, will have been left in no doubt that a drastic reversal in the concentration of market share in food retailing is a prerequisite to solving the problems facing UK agriculture and the global environment.

Until the NFU calls for legislation to achieve such a reversal, it will remain a part of the problem not part of the solution.

Contact WyeCycle
For an information pack please send an A4 sae to WyeCycle,
14 Scotton Street, Wye, Kent. TN25 5BZ
See also WyeCycle's Case against Supermarkets
and Market Share: The root of all evil

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