Supermarkets squeezing small suppliers

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The big supermarket groups are squeezing small farmers in their supply chains harder, according to a study by Oxfam.

The study, Ripe for Change, found that of the food supply chains analysed, none enabled people to earn enough for even a basic standard of living and in some cases, like Indian tea and Kenyan green beans, it was less than half of what they need to get by. Women face routine discrimination, often providing most of the labour for the lowest wages.

The study found that between 1995 and 2011, the supermarkets increased their share of the end consumer price by 11.5 per cent, while farmers saw their share fall by 13.1 per cent. Food manufacturers saw their share of the end consumer price fall by five per cent over the period.

Oxfam policy director Matthew Spencer said: “Our biggest supermarkets are squeezing the price they pay their suppliers, resulting in huge, hidden suffering among the women and men who supply our food and trapping them in poverty.”

The report includes a scorecard, based on the assessment of the publicly available policies and reported practices that affect the workers and farmers – especially women – in the food supply chains of some of the biggest supermarkets in the UK, United States, Germany and the Netherlands.

The analysis of the six biggest supermarkets in the UK – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, Aldi and Lidl – indicates a gap between their current policies and what needs to be in place to ensure that human and labour rights are fully respected in their supply chains. The overall scores ranged from just one per cent for Aldi to 23 per cent for Tesco.

Spencer said: “Global businesses can help lift millions of people out of poverty, but the food industry currently rewards shareholder wealth over the work of millions of women and men with supermarkets ignoring the hidden suffering behind their food supply chains. When companies get serious about supporting decent work they can help transform lives in some of the poorest parts of the world.”

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