Ken Parsons, the new Chief Executive of the Rural Shops Alliance, said: “The Competition Commission has reported on aspects of the UK grocery market no less than four times since 1999 and it seems that their boredom with the issue is starting to show - this really is a report for the 1990s.

"Perhaps back then it was sensible to build more out-of-town, edge-of-town supermarkets, but in 2007 it is not the right response to any question that’s actually on today’s agenda. In particular, more supermarkets outlets will "encourage more car use.

"By contrast the independent rural shops that we represent are crucial to minimising car use by the communities they serve, because without them people will make far more journeys to go grocery shopping in town. A policy to encourage more ‘big 4’supermarkets will only lead to the closure of yet more local shops. Rural communities will be weakened, people will spend more on fuel and there will be a rise in vehicle emissions. This is real: the Competition Commission’s econmetric model only addresses a hypothesis - which cannot be proved - that more supermarkets, mostly by the existing big 4, will reduce price levels.

The other important aspect is the supermarkets’ impact on suppliers. The Competition Commission confidently asserts that the dominance of the big multiples is not to the detriment of suppliers: this is during a week when it was announced that pig farmers are leaving the industry in record numbers because the large supermarkets refuse to pat realistic prices that cover their increasing production costs. Again, unfortunately the reality on the farm in 2007 does not match the Competition Commissions’ model of how the world actually works.

"We will be working in the coming months, even at this late, to persuade the Competition Commission to modify their findings in the light of the world as it is in the 21st century.”

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