Supermarkets urged to speed up payments

Ministers have urged supermarkets and food manufacturers pay their suppliers promptly in order to help them survive the credit crunch.

Environment secretary Hilary Benn met with representatives from major processors and multiples in London to emphasise the need to speed up payments to smaller businesses, who are more reliant on quick payment than larger companies.

Speaking after the meeting, Benn told press that "a single late payment can be the difference between survival and collapse", particularly in the current economic environment. He pointed out that small businesses and farmers are vital to the UK's food chain and should be given extra help though "turbulent times".

His intervention was welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). An FSB spokesperson said that major companies should pay "well before time" in order to ensure the survival of small businesses and farmers.

Lee Woodger, head of the NFU's food chain unit also welcomed Benn's message, but added that it would also be welcome if "ministers emphasised the importance of sourcing food from Britain rather than abroad."