Britain should tear up its code of conduct on how powerful supermarkets deal with farmers and small suppliers, an environment group said on Monday ahead of the publication of a new blueprint for UK farming and food.
Friends of the Earth said in a release that Britain's Policy Commission on Food and Farming, set up in the wake of foot-and-mouth and due to report to the government on Tuesday, had failed to highlight the power of retailers in its consultation papers on future strategy for UK farming.
"Supermarkets have used their dominant buyer position to force down farmgate prices to below what is economically viable for UK farmers, hence the need for legal controls over their activities," the group said.
The commission's report follows a raft of food scares including mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases, which have forced many farmers out of business and shaken the confidence of UK consumers.
The report is expected to recommend an increase in so-called modulation, under which European Union aid to large-scale farmers is capped, allowing more funds to go to other rural projects.
A bigger role is also seen for organic produce in Britain, with the commission expected to recommend more emphasis on food quality rather than quantity.
Farm minister Margaret Beckett said earlier this month organic food production was a clear example of the kind of opportunity Britain's farmers should target.
"We know there's a market and yet it's a market that we are not ourselves able to meet. There's a very clear marketing opportunity," she said.