Dutch government supports supervisor plan

Netherlands: End of the supermarkets' power?

Farmers and horticulturists need to be better protected against the growing power of Albert Heijn, Jumbo and other large supermarkets. A Chamber majority signed in favour of a new supervisor in the image of the British who checks that the supermarkets aren't abusing their power. The Dutch political party called the CDA is bringing out a plan this week that already has the support of the PvdA, SP and ChristenUnie. "In reality, supermarkets dictate what is on the shelves and how much it costs with their five purchasing organisations at the moment," says CDA chamber member Jaco Geurts, who used to farm pigs. "Farmers can refuse, in theory, but they risk losing a large buyer."

He points to Albert Heijn and Jumbo who used to force one sided price reductions on their suppliers. "This means that growers are hardly making enough to live, and the supply in the supermarkets is stagnating." A supervisor for Fair Trade in Agriculture and Fisheries could help this, he believes. Disputes can also be settles here. Geurts also heavily criticises the Autoriteit Consument Markt (ACM), which only checks consumers are paying the lowest possible price in the store. "The ACM also needs to factor in the importance of growers." 

The CDA is supported by a lot of factions in the Second Chamber. They want to help the farmers and horticulturists already affected by the trade boycot. "We have been saying this for years. At the moment, supermarkets decided what we eat," says Sjoera Dikkers (PvdA). "We are favourable towards a supervisor."

Carla Dik of the ChristenUnie points out that a formerly agreed upon code of conduct between supermarkets and agriculturists doesn't work. The question is what the largest coalition party, the VVD, will do. So far the liberals have always been against measures limiting the power of supermarkets. The SP is skeptical as to whether the PvdA will actually support the plans. "I'll believe it when I see it," says Sharon Gesthuizen. "The problem has been going on for so long."

Family companies
Apart from support, the Christian democrats can also count on a sneer. "When they were in the cabinet, they were always against this," says Gerard Schouw (D66). "I'm glad they've changed their mind." Schouw himself is not advocating for a new supervisor. "The ACM needs to add this to their duties, as the Chamber we can order them to."

Geurts hopes to be able to do business this autumn. "I am very worried about our food certainty in the long term. Everyone thinks it's a matter of fact that there is enough food on the shelves at a low price, but it's not." According to Geurts more and more family companies are quitting because they can't make their money. The CDA points out the economic importance of the sector. Farmers export 86 billion Euros worth of food every year. This makes them worth 9 percent of the Netherlands' total economy.

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