The NFU has called for a review of competition law to ensure farmers receive a fair price for the food they produce.
Minette Batters, the union’s president, said the UK’s groceries market was in a ‘globally unique mess’ because supermarkets had continually slashed prices on food staples such as milk.
She pointed out other countries had taken a much stronger stance on fair pricing, citing the example of Holland, where retailers are banned from offering ‘buy one get one free’ deals.
“Government has to get involved in all of this,” she told an NFU event at Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week.
“This is big picture, really tough politics, because competition law, the competition framework, and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are coming from the lens of the consumer.
“They are not focusing on the supply base and that is what we have to do. We cannot do it as the NFU, it is only Government which can get involved in the market and review the competition framework.
“This is something we believe has to happen and we believe it has to be done independently of the CMA.”
Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee Neil Parish, who joined Ms Batters on the event panel, also raised concerns about the way new rules to tackle supply chain unfairness in the Agriculture Bill would be enforced.
The legislation would allow the Government to regulate contracts between farmers and first purchasers such as processors and abattoirs, but the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has been given responsibility for policing any breaches.
This would make the RPA a farmers’ first port of call if they believe they have a contract in place which is unfair.
Mr Parish said: “In the Agriculture Bill, we are going to send the RPA along to Tesco to sort them out if they are not behaving properly.
“I am not convinced they are going to fear the RPA very much when they get through the door.
“It really has got to be the Groceries Code Adjudicator [doing this job].”