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    Campaign calling for fairer treatment of farmers by ‘Big Six’ supermarkets picks up momentum  

    Guy Singh-Watson (Photo: Stu Everitt)

    Over 60,000 members of the public have signed the #GetFairAboutFarming parliamentary petition demanding the government do more to support farmers within two weeks of launch, but the ‘Big Six’ supermarkets are yet to respond, the campaigners said.

    As part of the campaign, an open letter was sent to the chief executives of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl asking them to treat farmers fairly and warning that the British farming industry was “on its knees”.

    But over two weeks on, there has been a “deafening silence” from the high street giants to the campaign, which was launched by organic fruit and veg box company, Riverford, who have long-standing ‘Fair to Farmers’ charter. The company wants supermarkets to adopt some of these principles as a way of spreading fair trade across farming more widely. 

    Over 100 leading public figures signed the #GetFairAboutFarming open letter, which has the backing of industry bodies Sustain and Soil Association.

    Natalie Bennett, the former Leader of the Green Party, also backed the campaign, saying in the House of Lords: “Farmers suffer major economic loss and a huge amount of food is wasted because supermarkets order food and then refuse to take it and to put it on the shelves and it rots in the fields.”

    It comes after research from Riverford found that 49 per cent of British fruit and vegetable farmers say it’s likely they will go out of business in the next 12 months, and many blame supermarkets and their buyers as a leading threat to their livelihoods.

    The petition asks the government amends the Grocery Supply Code of Practice (GSCP) to require retailers, without exception, to: Buy what they agreed to buy, Pay what they agreed to pay, and Pay on time

    The principles are taken from Riverford’s Fair to Farmers charter – a document devised by founder Guy Singh-Watson to lay down ethical business practices among growers and farmers, to ensure a fair deal is always achieved.

    Singh-Watson said: “The reaction and level of support for this campaign has been very encouraging. From the backing of our open letter by industry experts, chefs, MPs, and fellow farmers, to the 60,000 members of the British public who have signed our petition, it is abundantly clear that this is an urgent issue which needs to be addressed.

    “However, the silence from supermarkets is deafening. British agriculture is on its knees, with research showing that many farmers attribute their fear of closure to the behaviour of supermarkets. And yet not one of the ‘Big Six’ has responded to our calls for better business practices, to safeguard the future of fruit and veg farmers in this country.

    “The supermarkets must act now. This marks a critical moment where we can take a stand against harmful practices, and create a better, fairer future for British food and farming. “

    People can sign the petition here.

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