Scots call for supermarket ombudsman

Scottish farming leaders have renewed calls for the introduction of an independent supermarket ombudsman, claiming that supermarket suppliers are still being mistreated.

NFU Scotland said that some of the UK's biggest retailers are putting up resistance to the introduction of an ombudsman to oversee and facilitate relationships between retailers and their suppliers, which was one of the recommendations in the Competition Commission's report earlier this year.

The union said that in the meantime, "the domination that [supermarkets] exert over their suppliers, frequently to the detriment of those supplier businesses, and farmer growers in turn, continues."

Jim McLaren, NFU Scotland President said that he has spoken to a wide range of people, from vegetable growers to meat producers and heard widespread anecdotal evidence of "real abuses of power."

"The reason that this evidence remains anecdotal is because there are now so few suppliers working with the supermarkets in each sector that they cannot complain for fear of their comments being easily attributed. This means that the supermarkets can, and do, run roughshod over those who supply them," he said.

"What we want, with immediate effect, is a move away from loose 'gentleman's' agreements which allow the supermarkets total control over their suppliers, to proper contracts that allow sustainable profit margins for everyone within the supply chain."

McLaren added that retailers have been marketing supply chain relationships as mutually beneficial partnerships, when in fact retailers still hold all the power.

"If the warm words that the supermarkets have been speaking mean anything at all then the time has come for them to grasp the ombudsman recommendation with both hands. Only by acting immediately to ensure that their suppliers are able to operate sustainable businesses will supermarkets ensure future supplies of Scottish food and drink for their valuable customers," he said.

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