Ruffley Meets Suffolk Farmers About Power of Supermarkets in the Food Industry

Wednesday, 22 January, 2003

David Ruffley will be holding one of his regular meetings with members of the Bury St Edmunds Branch of the National Farmers' Union on Friday, 24 January.

The main topics for discussion at the meeting include: sheep tagging, bio fuels, the proposed takeover of Safeway by Wal Mart and the power of supermarkets in general.

Although Suffolk is not a huge sheep rearing area, there are many Suffolk farmers who rear them. In December 2002 the European Commission produced additional new proposals on sheep tagging which have proved very controversial. Not only will sheep need to have an eartag applied to each ear but the identity code will be 14 digits long which will have to be recorded on every movement form. The UK has more sheep and moves them more times than any other EC Member State

The NFU have reacted with horror to these proposals, describing them as a 'record-keeping nightmare'.

David said: 'Farmers have a difficult enough job to keep their businesses running without even more bureaucracy being heaped upon them from Brussels. The UK Government accepts that sheep tagging proposals will need to be amended to take account of the practical problems faced by our farmers. I will be lobbying Government Ministers to try to ensure that our farmers are not disproportionately disadvantaged.

"The farmers also want to raise with me the possible takeover of Safeways. Supermarket power centred in an even smaller number of hands is bound to cause farmers concern about pricing. The danger is that they will be even more squeezed on price than before. I will be listening to their concerns and will do what I can to support their cause.

"Big supermarkets have huge power but rarely use it to promote local produce like milk and Suffolk ham and bacon.'