Farmers for Action (FFA) yesterday [Wednesday] agreed to meet for discussions with Colin Smith and Steve Murrell, commercial director and director in charge of meat-buying at Tesco, respectively, effectively granting the retailing giant a reprieve on plans to step up its pickets.

The farmers’ group is angered over what it claims are increasingly lower prices paid to food suppliers, driven by price cuts in store. Small-scale protests outside Tesco’s depots began last November, but since the refusal of group CEO, Terry Leahy, to meet face-to-face with the protestors, the FFA has threatened to blockade Tesco’s regional distribution.

FFA leader, Welsh farmer David Handley, has also recently threatened to extend the protest action to major Tesco shareholders.

Tesco has denied that it is aggressively lowering farm gate prices, and has insisted that it deals directly with suppliers, not farmers.

The protestors, who also orchestrated the nationwide fuel price protest last year, have received a mixed response. Concerned that uninvolved farmers could be affected, the National Farmers’ Union distanced itself from the picket lines.