For the past two months, the Competition Commission has been investigating the retail grocery industry. The big four supermarkets — Pick n Pay, Shoprite Checkers, Woolworths and Spar — control almost the entire grocery retail market. The investigation focused on the effect of this monopoly on smaller retailers. But there are other casualties too: their small and medium-sized suppliers. Over the past 15 years, the big four’s total market share of food retail has increased from about 60% to more than 90%. It is unclear whether this monopoly benefits consumers, but one thing is clear: black-and white-owned small suppliers are subjected to egregious contractual terms, which has implications for their survival, for entrants to the sector and for job creation. A survey and in-depth interviews with 26 small and medium-sized suppliers shows that unless suppliers have a strong independent brand, they are simply competing with other suppliers for shelf space and are dispensable. As one put it...

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