OFT chief is slammed for his naiveté

THE CHIEF executive of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) John Fingleton has been branded naive by meat bosses after he was reported saying he is ready to see small suppliers squeezed out of business by the supermarkets

, so long as savings are passed onto consumers.

Graham Bidston, chief executive of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders (NFMFT), said Fingleton's comments were unbelievably naive and contradicted the recent trend for supermarkets to sell locally sourced food.

A spokesman for the OFT said the organisation was a consumer body and any work that they carried out was not based on supplier issues.

Bidston said: "If you squeeze out the small suppliers you are going to squeeze out the local suppliers which is a great shame at a time when the government is looking to encourage more supermarkets to source local food...Undoubtedly there are butchers who supply supermarkets and if we lost their products then supermarkets would just stock bog standard products."

Fingleton was reported to have said that he would be prepared to let British suppliers dry up even if it meant supply contracts went abroad.

He said in the report: "Suppliers might like to keep prices higher, but the market should be led by what consumers want - not by bureaucratic decision making. It would be ridiculous to keep prices artificially high to placate suppliers. There are always winners and losers. If one company goes out of business there will soon be another to take its place. Even if everyone goes bust and business shifts abroad, those trucks importing goods to our supermarket chains will need to be filled up in the other direction."

Fingleton made the comments at a time when the OFT has recently referred the UK's £95b grocery industry to the Competition Commission for investigation for having an unhealthy domination of the market.

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