“Seismic change” needed in the way food is sold in the UK
Farming organisations are calling on retailers to promote British food that is labelled properly

“Seismic change” needed in the way food is sold in the UK

Gill McShane
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With self-sufficiency already in decline the UK’s farming unions are warning that the future of the nation’s domestic food supply is at risk, unless UK farmers and growers’ returns are sustainable and retailers promote British food that is labelled properly

Prompted by the current milk crisis, leaders say a “seismic change” in the way all food is sold is “essential” to avoid what it predicts would be “dire consequences” for the UK farming industry and rural economy.

Headed by the the National Farmers Union (NFU), farming organisations claim it’s time to back British farming; calling for both government and retailers to admit “something has gone fundamentally wrong” in the supply chain and to take action now.

Following a meeting in London on August 10 (to discuss the current milk crisis), farming leaders have jointly urged the UK government, retailers and processors, and the European Union not to ignore the warning signs that UK farming as a whole is in a state of emergency.

In a joint statement, the four union presidents of NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers Union, together with Farmers for Action (FFA), TFA, CLA and NFYFC, have called for clear and urgent action in the following areas:

Government

“We would urge farm ministers across the UK to meet urgently. They need to admit that something has gone fundamentally wrong in the supply chain and take remedial action. In general, voluntary codes are not delivering their intended purpose. Government needs to take action to ensure that contracts to all farmers are longer-term and fairer in apportioning risk and reward. At the moment, in many contracts all the risk is put on the farmer with very little of the reward. Government also needs to urgently ensure that rules are put in place regarding labelling so that it is clear and obvious which products are imported and which are British. We are all looking for government to ensure that British products are marketed abroad and that new markets are opened up for our high quality British food.”

Retailers

“Stop devaluing fresh British food like milk purely to get customers through the door. Start demonstrating right now how you are ensuring that ALL the food you are selling comes from a farm which has been paid a fair price. The British public has said time and time again that they want British food. Unless farmers’ returns are sustainable and you promote British food and label it properly the future of our supply is at risk. If you can’t demonstrate what you are doing for all food then we look to you to commit to changing.”

European Union

“There is an emergency meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers on September 7. We are calling for UK ministers to stand up for British farming at that meeting. In particular ensure that European safety nets are at a proper level and do something to underwrite the short term credit position of vulnerable farmers.”

British public

“Thank you for your support. Please keep asking retailers what they are doing to ensure their farmers receive a fair price and above all keep buying British.”

Farmers

“We know that many of you are going through desperate times and we are working on your behalf. Keep being visible. Keep the British public on our side.

In the statement, the leaders added that until action is taken farmers will continue to make their presence felt where they feel there is unfairness in the supply chain locally, nationally and in Europe from now and including September 7.

What NFU wants to achieve

  • Communicate the effect of the price cuts on its farming members, the hardship they are going through, the frustration and worry they feel and the potential impact on supply.

  • Understand farmers’ situation in the market, formulate plans for the future and stop any possible opportunism.

  • Push for public support and better explain farmers’ and the industry’s plans.

  • Gain commitments to not pass on any price cuts to farmers and achieve further transparency in the supply chain, so that all source (milk) in a fair and transparent way.

  • See sustainable promotional mechanisms for British (dairy) products introduced, driving volume rather than price where necessary.

  • Explain the consequences of devaluing dairy products, specifically milk, on the industry and future sustainability of the sector.

  • Hold retailers to account for previous sourcing commitments and influence their aspirations for the future.

  • Push for public support of the industry and farmers from retailers.

Further materials

Retailers’ sourcing policies explained by NFU
See which retailers have signed the NFU’s Back British Farming Charter
Watch NFU President Meurig Raymond on BBC News

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