Andy Clark, retail director for Asda, David North, government and communities director for Tesco, Steven Esom, head of food at Marks & Spencerm and Andrew Opie, director of food policy at the British Retail Consortium, as well as representatives from the National Farmers' Union and commodity traders met with Chancellor Alistair Darling yesterday to discuss food inflation.
The Chancellor did not use the one-hour meeting to blame the supermarkets for food inflation, a Treasury insider told The Times, and the meeting had been “extremely productive”, according to an Asda spokeswoman.
“We took the opportunity to explain to the Treasury how hard we are working to reduce food prices during these difficult times,” she said. “The government needs supermarkets to help lock down inflation. Low inflation doesn't happen by accident - it's a result of a highly advanced and competitive retail sector.”
However, the Daily Mail claimed the supermarkets used the meeting to slam Competition Commission plans to tighten up UK planning laws and create a supermarket ombudsman.
Meanwhile, a United Nations report has warned world food prices are likely to stay high and volatile for the foreseeable future. Corn prices could be 15% higher by 2017 and oilseed 33% higher, the report predicted.