Suppliers complaining about supermarket buyers is nothing new, but ethnic food suppliers argue that they tend to get a rougher deal than most. The chief complaint is that buyers don't understand some of the more unusual ethnic products they are buying.

A halal supplier says one buyer had to ask her to explain what halal meant. "Many buyers know that halal is the fastest-growing market and yet the supermarkets have not taken the category seriously enough," she says.

A frequent gripe from all suppliers is that, just as they start to develop a good working relationship with a buyer, the buyer moves on. In the past, Andy Bond, chief executive of Asda, has claimed this was because buyers were the most ambitious recruits and so often promoted rapidly.

Another problem affecting ethnic suppliers is that they often import goods. The weak pound has hit these companies hard and suppliers have found it difficult to renegotiate prices.

One Mediterranean food importer claims that the reluctance of buyers to allow price rises has made his business unprofitable.

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