27 March 2003 | Robin Parker
Food suppliers believe new rules to stop supermarkets from exploiting them have made no difference in the year since their introduction, according to environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth.
More than half of farmers polled said there had been no change or improvements in how the UK's four biggest supermarkets treated them since the Department of Trade and Industry introduced a code of conduct a year ago.
More than a quarter have had to change transport or product packaging without compensation for the extra costs.
A third of those that had problems supplying supermarkets said fear of losing business stopped them from complaining.
Sandra Bell, food and farming campaigner for Friends of the Earth, called for a "new code with teeth".
She said UK food suppliers remain in an "arm lock", echoing comments made by prime minister Tony Blair when he called for an investigation into the supermarkets' buying power more than two years ago.
"If the supermarkets are allowed to continue squeezing UK farmers, they will not be able to invest in the sort of quality local food that people want, and many will go out of business," she said.
A Tesco spokesman said it had maintained a "good working relationship" with its suppliers since the code came in, but admitted it had voiced some reservations to the Office of Fair Trading.
The OFT will publish a report on the code this spring.