13 Jan 2003
With at least three of the biggest supermarkets jostling for the take-over of the supermarket chain Safeway, Friends of the Earth today criticised the proposed deals as bad news for consumers. The environmental campaign group attacked claims by the supermarkets that the deals would mean better prices for consumers.
In a recent survey, which included both Morrisons and Sainsbury, Friends of the Earth found that supermarkets were the most expensive place to buy apples. Local market stalls and greengrocers beat all the supermarkets on price. And a survey for Sustain in 2000 found that fruit and vegetables were around 30 per cent cheaper at market stalls than supermarkets.
Friends of the Earth surveyed prices at 151 supermarkets, 58 greengrocers and 29 markets. The results revealed the average price for a kilogramme of Cox apples was just £1.02 at market stalls, £1.07 at greengrocers, but £1.27 Morrisons and Asda-Walmart, and £1.44 at Sainsbury.
Friends of the Earth Food and Farming Campaigner Sandra Bell said:
It is simply not true that either of these proposed deals will be good for consumers. They will mean the loss of more small shops, and people will have even less choice of where to buy their groceries. It is not even true that supermarkets are best for price. We found that supermarkets are the most expensive place to buy apples. The truth is that supermarkets only offer cheap prices on a very limited range of goods which are unlikely to be fresh healthy produce.
The Government must ensure that these proposed deals are thoroughly investigated by the Competition Commission and it must put consumer choice, protection of small businesses and farmers above the financial interests of these big corporate retailers
Friends of the Earth is also warning that further concentration of power in the hands of the big supermarkets will be bad news for small businesses, farmers and the environment. Friends of the Earths 10 reasons for not giving more power to the supermarkets are listed below.
Friends of the Earth is writing to the Office of Fair Trading and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry calling on them to refer the proposed deals to the Competition Commission for a detailed investigation, including an assessment of the potential impact on local economies.
Supermarkets dont offer the best price to consumers. Supermarket low prices are only on a very limited range of goods. A recent survey by Friends of the Earth found that supermarkets are the most expensive place to buy apples, market stalls and greengrocers beat the supermarkets, including Morrisons and Sainsburys on price . A survey for Sustain in 2000 found that fruit and vegetables were around 30% cheaper at market stalls than supermarkets  .
Supermarkets favour imports over British produce. Although
84% of shoppers say they want supermarkets to give preference to
British produce when it is in season  the supermarkets appear
to do the opposite. A Friends of the Earth survey found that at
the height of the UK apple season under half of the apples on offer
in the big four supermarkets were home-grown .
Supermarkets bullying tactics can put small farmers out of business.
The Competition Commission  found that the big supermarkets enter
into unfair trading practices with their suppliers. For example
supermarkets pay invoices very late, and they pass costs back to
suppliers for changes to transport and packaging and even for their
own mistakes in ordering. Because these practices can hamper suppliers
investment in new products, and makes it hard for smaller businesses
to compete, the Competition Commission warned that consumer choice
may be effected.
Supermarkets are squeezing prices to farmers. Last year the NFU found
that for a basket of food costing the consumer £37 the farmers
would only have got £11. The Competition Commission found that
Tesco which has the biggest market share paid the lowest prices
Supermarkets are forcing small shops out of business. About eight independent
shops close every day . Small independent shops cannot compete
with the big multiples.
Supermarkets do not support the local economy in the same way that local
shops do. The New Economics Foundation  has found that local
shops keep more money circulating in the local economy.
When a large supermarket opens there is a net loss of jobs. The British
Retail Planning Forum found that every time a large supermarket
opens on average 276 jobs are lost .
Supermarkets import food over huge distances, often by air, resulting in
large emissions of carbon dioxide. For example two kilos of
baby carrots from South Africa will travel 9,622 km by plane and
result in emissions of 10,969 grammes of global warming carbon dioxide
Supermarkets also transport food large distances around the
UK due to their distribution system. For example according to
the Institute of Grocery Distribution Sainsburys vehicles
clocked up 15.7 million km last year and Asda-Walmart clocked up
147.9 million .
Supermarkets waste food by placing difficult conditions on farmers for cosmetic
appearance. In a Friends of the Earth survey of apple growers
 we found that supermarkets frequently reject fruit for being
the wrong shape size or colour even though it is perfectly edible
 In October 2002, Friends of the Earth surveyed 151 supermarkets,
58 greengrocers and 29 markets, the results revealed that the average
price for a kg of cox apples was just £1.02 at market stalls, £1.07
at greengrocers, but at Morrions or Asda-Walmart would cost £1.27
and at Sainsburys would cost as much as £1.44.
 Sustain, 2000, A Battle in Store
 NOP Omnibus, carried out the poll between the 8th and 10th November, see Friends of the Earth press release 18 November 2002 New Poll Shows Public Back Farmers v Supermarkets
 Friends of the Earth media briefing British Apples for Sale, November 2002
 Competition Commission, October 2000, Supermarkets
 Grocer Yearbook, 2002
 NEF, 2002, Ghost Town Britain
 British Retail Planning Forum, 1998, the impact of out-of-centre food superstores on local retail employment
 Sustain, 2001, Eating Oil, Food Supply in a Changing Climate
 The Grocer, 4 January 2003
 Friends of the Earth media briefing, November 2002, Supermarkets and Great British Fruit
Friends of the Earth
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Tel: 020 7490 1555
Fax: 020 7490 0881