THE NATIONAL FARMERS UNION, doughty defender of that highly subsidised but fragile breed, has complained to the Competition Commission about an invitation from Safeway to its members to donate £20,000 for each food and drink line supplied - ostensibly to finance instore promotion.

The NFU was responding to members’ fears that they would be delisted if they didn’t play ball with the retail giant - Britain’s fourth largest supermarketeer. Denouncing the demand as totally unacceptable and morally wrong, the NFU said: What we need is a partnership that promotes British agriculture and horticulture - not a short-sighted approach that threatens its very future, in the interest of protecting the value of Safeway shares. Hands aloft in pious indignation, Safeway insisted the payments were voluntary and that farm suppliers would not be dropped if they could not afford a donation. The chain claimed that Farmer Giles Agribusi-ness plc and its ilk could benefit from a 15% increase in British food and drink sales if the promotional scheme succeeded.