Check out Time for the Supermarkets; Forecasts about Dangers Posed by Superstores Are Coming True Says Ross Reyburn

By Ayeburn, Ross | The Birmingham Post (England), October 3, 1998 | Go to article overview

Check out Time for the Supermarkets; Forecasts about Dangers Posed by Superstores Are Coming True Says Ross Reyburn


Ayeburn, Ross, The Birmingham Post (England)


Judgment Day is now long overdue for Britain's supermarkets. The horror story of Welsh lambs selling for less than the price of a packet of crisps and the disturbing disappearance of so many small shops from our towns and villages is warning enough. The time has come to end the monopolistic control of the country's fresh food market by the major supermarket chains.

The ultimate doomsday scenario is the alowerful supermarkets causing the death of British farming, the death of the corner shop, the death of the village shop and the end of the traditional town centre.

This may sound far-fetched and alarmist. But these prophecies are already on the road to fulfilment.

In Wales where farmers have been giving away sheep to the RSPCA as they have been selling for as little as 25p per animal, farmer/butcher Morgan Thomas foresees the virtual end of the British farmer if present trends continue even though we have the capa city to produce all our basic food needs without importing.

"At the moment, all livestock - pigs, beef and lamb - are being produced and sold off the farms at way below cost prices," he said. "The outcome of that can only be in the not too distant future farmers will have gone out of business and there will be no British beef available. We'll entirely depend on imports.

"The supermarkets are using their buying power to suppress prices for producers and their marketing strength to inflate prices for consumers. It is an abuse of power."

Officialdom recently confirmed the obvious when the Office of Fair Trading issued a report saying the major supermarket chains, Asda, Safeway, Sainsbury and Tesco, were exploiting their huge buying power to drive down prices they pay for food and failing to pass on these savings to customers.

A recent survey has shown a supermarket basket of groceries bought in Britain for pounds 82.05 can be purchased in Holland for pounds 49.55, in Germany for pounds 53.31, in America for pounds 56.48 and in France for pounds 60.14.

Morgan Thomas, who has a 110-acre farm and two butchers shops in Hengoed, Glamorgan, has his own graphic evidence to back his claims. This week he has been able to sell his 37lb lambs for pounds 27.75. The wholesaler would than have slaughtered the anima l selling it to butchers shops for pounds 33.30.

In Mr Thomas's shops, his prices made the lamb worth pounds 66.66. But in the local supermarket, the same animal was being sold for the equivalent of pounds 95.63.

This week he was buying English cauliflowers for 27p each. While he sold them for 48p, the local supermarket price was 99p.

Napoleon called the English a nation of shopkeepers. Today a nation of shopping addicts is the more accurate description. Government perceptions are if the people want something, it is right. So the special status of Sunday as a day of worship where the world of commerce takes a backseat has disappeared.

The people wanted Sunday opening and so their wish was granted.

With the same distorted sense of logic, the huge popularity of the supermarkets as a one-shop outlet providing a family's food skilfully packaged in bright surroundings at reasonable prices with the odd bargain has allowed their domination to continue vi rtually unchecked.

The supermarket's cause has been helped by presentation. Lured by aisles of perfect looking food products, the public seems incapable of realising that less than perfect looking organic vegetables can taste far better than supermarket produce. The freezi ng of food takes away its flavour but how many realise that a specialist shop can be selling cheeses in another taste league to those available in supermarkets?

The wider perspective has been ignored. Do we want a nation of high streets with the same stores and no individual shops? Is a vast store with overworked cashiers lined up like battery hens in a long row of parallel tills with no time to discuss importan t issues of the day such as the activities of Mrs Blott in Perfection Avenue really the ultimate shopping Valhalla? …

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