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Sustain / Agri-Food Network

Meeting 5: Competition policy and the Food Chain

Bill Vorley - International Institute for Environment and Development
David Barling - City University
David Handley - Farmers for Action
Derek Mead - Dairy Farmer, NFU
Dominic Eagleton - Action Aid
Elizabeth Dowler - University of Warwick
Iain Farquhar - Farmers Link
Ian Brenman - Fairtrade Foundation
J-B Louveaux - Friends of the Earth
Jeremy Baker - London Metropolitan University
Joanna Blythman - Independent writer
Joe Sempik - Loughborough University
John Cubbin - City University
JohnThorley - Sheep Association (pm only)
Judith Wheatley - Grassroots Action on Food and Farming
Julian Oram - New Economics Foundation
Kathryn Tulip - Corporate Watch
Lucy Michaels - Corporate Watch
Lucy Nichol - Oxford Brookes University
Michael Hutchings - Fair Deal Group
Mike Joffe - Imperial College London
Richard Boden - Wye Cycle
Robin Maynard - farm
Ruth Potts - National Federation of Women's Institutes
Sandra Bell - Friends of the Earth
Teresa Mackay - Transport and General Workers Union
Tim Lang - City University
Vicki Hird - Sustain

City University, London, 24th September 2003


With the Safeway take-over rumbling on and much jostling for position across Europe by big retailers and manufacturers, competition in the food chain is a highly topical issue, which requires good cross-disciplinary understanding. This meeting was, for many attending, a first introduction to the detail of competition policy.

The meeting was followed in the afternoon by a meeting to discuss strategies for civil society groups to tackle problems with competition within the food chain.


Presentations were as follows

  1. Bill Vorley: 'Business concentration along the food chain from farm to consumer: North and South.'  Bill Vorley, International Institute for Environment & Development, author of the about-to-be published review of concentration in the agri-food chain for the UK Food Group.
  2. Professor John Cubbin of the Dept Economics at City University: 'A review of formal competition policy.'
    PDF Icon Download as PDF - 32kb
  3. Jeremy Baker: 'Creating a realistic programme for supermarket change.'
    Jeremy (Senior lecturer in Marketing, London Metropolitan University) explored the situation today with regard to customers and their needs and concerns; the supermarkets and their success; who were the losers; what the Government position is and how the media are presenting the issues. He explored what 'anti-supermarket' campaigns were failing to do adequately and where the balance of power lay and therefore where the target for campaigns could be. He then looked at future scenarios: what groups should be doing - defining more what they wanted to change and having a more focussed message. Two references given are Miller, Daniel (2001) The dialectics of shopping, Chicago: University of Chicago Press; and Baker, Jeremy (2003) 'The competition Commission is about to create a premier league that has no fear of relegation', The Grocer, 9th August 2003.
  4. Tim Lang, Prof of Food Policy, City University: 'Current Tensions between Competition Policy and Food Policy: conflicts and opportunities.'
    PDF Icon Download as PDF - 49kb

This AFN meeting was largely to explore the options and limits of competition policy with regard to addressing public concerns about retailing. No specific conclusions were drawn after an exchange of views and queries for each presentation.

Agri-Food Network: The Agri-Food Network was launched jointly by Sustain and the Department of Health Management & Food Policy, City University in 2001 to link academics working on food and farm policy with each other and with those NGOs and think tanks which are using and commissioning research to underpin policy advocacy work.

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