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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 04:35 GMT
Farmers set to blockade Tesco
Farmers demonstrate at Newport in 1997
The farmers' demo would not be the first at Tesco
Militant farmers plan to protest against Tesco after the supermarket chain refused a meeting to discuss the prices it pays them for produce.

Farmers For Action (FFA) said it would push ahead with threatened protests - expected to be in the form of blockades of distribution depots in England and Wales.

Twenty-eight FFA co-ordinators met at a secret location in Wiltshire on Tuesday evening to discuss their plans.

After the meeting, chairman David Handley said protests could go ahead "imminently", although he did not reveal what form they would take.


British farmers at the moment are being paid below their cost of production for the majority of produce

David Handley
FFA chairman
But he said FFA would give the chain a few more days to agree to its request for a meeting with chief executive Sir Terry Leahy to discuss the matter.

Before the meeting, he said "thousands" of farmers were prepared to join the action.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was Tesco's fault that farmers were being under-paid for milk, fruit and vegetables and meat.

"Their pricing structure affects what everyone else can pay. Because they're the largest and the biggest, they really set the trend.

"And unfortunately the trend they're setting is that British farmers at the moment are being paid below their cost of production for the majority of produce."

A spokesman for Tesco said it "regretted" that the farmers had agreed to go ahead with the action.


None of the other supermarket chief executives have met them and clearly Terry Leahy can't meet every farmer who wants to see him

Tesco

"We have repeatedly offered to meet them at our producer's club meeting later this month to discuss their concerns with the Tesco director responsible for agriculture.

"This offer continues to be rejected by the FFA but it remains open."

He added: "None of the other supermarket chief executives have met them and clearly Terry Leahy can't meet every farmer who wants to see him."

Any such action would not be the first farmers have taken against Tesco.

The FFA has arranged blockades of its depots on a regular basis since last October, but says that this time the blockades could be bigger and longer.

Code of practice

Teams of dairy farmers picketed Tesco distribution depots in March 2000, saying it was destroying their livelihoods by paying too little for milk.

And in 1997 Welsh farmers picketed a Newport distribution depot, accusing the firm of making unfair profits on British beef.

Farmers For Action says it has good working relations with all the other big supermarket chains.

A code of practice governing relations between the biggest supermarkets - currently Tesco, Asda, Safeway and Sainsbury - and their suppliers, will come into force in March.

The government code was drawn up by the DTI after the Competition Commission published a report concluding the big chains operated in ways that "distorted" a fair market.

Farmers' leaders, consumer groups and environmentalists criticised the code as "too weak" when proposals were published at the end of October.

See also:

01 Nov 01 | Business
Supermarkets code 'too weak'
10 Apr 01 | Business
Tesco profits top 1bn
10 Apr 01 | Business
Q&A: Are farmers victims of Tesco?
11 Apr 01 | e-cyclopedia
Hypermarket economy: Checkout the big boys
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