Relationships between supermarkets and farmers in Northern Ireland will be under the spotlight when the Competition Commission's inquiry into grocery reaches the province next week.

The Ulster Farmers' Union will tell the Commission supermarkets have a huge role to play in making the supply chain work more effectively, when it holds hearings in Holywood, County Down, next Thursday and Friday.

"Primary production is in an unhealthy situation and we want to make the point it is in the consumer's interest to ensure primary production is sustainable," said a UFU spokesman. "If we lose primary production, the consumer will lose out because at a time of growing demand for local produce, there will be less choice."

The UFU is also keen to discuss the relationship between retailers and farmers, he said. "In Northern Ireland there is a wide gap between retailers and farmers.

"Retailers don't seem aware of the reality of the conditions."

Other associations expected to take part in the hearings include the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association and the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association. The latter did not want to comment ahead of the event, said chief executive Bryan Gray.

The Commission is also planning to meet two suppliers from the province but their identities are undisclosed.