One of the five UK dairy processors embroiled in the dairy price-fixing allegations has insisted it did not benefit from moves by UK retailers to increase farm-gate prices.
Robert Wiseman Dairies told just-food it did not profit from attempts by UK supermarkets to pass on consumer price rises to dairy farmers in 2002 and 2003.
According to British Retail Consortium director general Kevin Hawkins, individual retailers had independently raised the price of milk, butter and cheese in a bid to keep farmers in business and ensure a supply of dairy products.
However, Hawkins claimed that not all of the extra cash reached the farmers. “A proportion of the increases reached farmers; some appears to have stuck to the sides on the way down the supply chain.”
A spokesman for Robert Wiseman dismissed any notion that the company benefited from the retailers’ actions. “Robert Wiseman Dairies made not a single penny in extra revenue,” the spokesman told just-food.
Yesterday (20 September), the Office of Fair Trading, the UK’s competition watchdog, claimed that price-fixing between five UK supermarkets and five dairy processors had cost consumers some GBP270m (US$541.7m) over a two-year period.
The OFT claimed that retailers and dairy processors colluded to fix the retail prices of milk, butter and cheese in 2002 and 2003. The OFT named retailers Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Safeway and Sainsbury’s, as well as dairy groups Lactalis McLelland, The Cheese Company, Arla Foods, Dairy Crest and Robert Wiseman in its findings.
A spokesperson for the OFT told just-food that the watchdog had no evidence that price increases had reached farmers. “If that is the case, then [retailers and dairies] have been not only ripping off the dairy community but consumers too,” the OFT spokesperson said. “We’re confident of our findings but the relevant parties now have every right to come forward, make representations and give evidence to us.”