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Facts and Figures

* Tesco is the UK's most successful retailer. Last September it announced half-year profits of pound;628 million. Last year Sainsbury's and Safeway made pound;571million and pound;355 million respectively.

* Every pound;1 in pound;8 we spend is in a Tesco store. Tesco sells more DVDs and shampoo than any specialist stores that sells these items and it shifts more of its pound;4 jeans than all its pairs of Levi's, Gap jeans and Wranglers put together ("Loaded! Why supermarkets are getting richer and richer", The Observer, January 25, 2004).

* The Fairtrade label celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and an increasing number of its products are becoming available in supermarkets.

Shoppers spend pound;2 million a week on Fairtrade items. However, stores also carry many cheaper foodstuffs that give little return to farmers in developing countries. A box of Ecuadorian bananas, for example, can be bought by a supermarket for as little as pound;1.60 but sold for about pound;14 - with the supermarket taking more than a 40 per cent share of the final price (

* According to estimates from campaigners Sustain: the Alliance for Better Food and Farming, the average Sunday lunch (including chicken from Thailand, beans from Zambia and carrots from Spain) travels 26,234 miles (42,218 kilometres) to the table.

* The current UK landfill tax is pound;14 per tonne. In 20023 Sainsbury's had to dispose of 56,000 tonnes of food.

* Men are particularly prone to impulse buys, accounting for a significant proportion of biscuit and smoked salmon sales.

* The average weekly shop takes an average of 55 minutes and costs pound;85.

* Dr Hugh Phillips says people in the UK and Europe prefer 18 inches (45cm) of space around them. Shoppers will avoid aisles in which crowds or queues risk people invading that space.

The Liberal Democrats' report How Green is Your Supermarket? was published in March to promote environmentally sensitive practices from the big supermarkets. It states that:

* there is approximately one supermarket for every 10,000 people in the country;

* supermarkets employ 750,000 people, but may be costing communities as much as pound;100 billion a year by centralising purchases of goods and services;

* the biggest nine supermarkets give out about 17.5 billion plastic bags.

This is enough plastic to cover an area greater than Sussex and Surrey put together;

* seven supermarket chains in the UK cover four and a half square miles (11.6 square kilometres);

* 7 per cent of the fruit and vegetables sold in these supermarkets is organic. The Government has a target for 70 per cent of organic food sales to be British grown: only about 55 per cent is at the moment;

* supermarket lorries travel 408 million miles (656 million kilometres) a year. This is the equivalent of going around the M25 nearly three million times;

* Jonly three of the nine supermarket chains surveyed use rail to transport freight. However, even in these cases rail makes up only 4 per cent of the mileage;

* the average household spends pound;470 a year on packaging - one-sixth of its total food budget;

* the National Farmers Union found that only 26 per cent of the cost of food in a shopping basket is accounted for by the food itself. The rest is packaging, processing, transport, store overheads, advertising and mark-up;

* supermarkets use about 5 per cent of the UK's annual energy consumption.

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