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    Farming leaders slam supermarkets over ‘imbalanced’ buying practices

    (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

    Supermarkets are being urged to treat suppliers more fairly amid warnings that British agriculture is “on its knees”.

    The letter, sent to the chief executives of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl by farming and food leaders, claims that the supermarkets’ buying practices are “all too often imbalanced, short term and wasteful” and leaving farmers “struggling to survive”.

    Almost half (49 per cent)of fruit and veg farmers fear they will go out of business within next 12 months with the behavior of supermarket being the leading factor.

    Its more than 100 signatories include industry bodies Sustain and The Soil Association, chefs Rick Stein and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, conservationist Ray Mears and TV presenters Julia Bradbury and Jimmy Doherty.

    “Farmers are denied commitment or security – with whole crops rejected at the last minute in favour of cheaper options elsewhere, or just because supermarkets change their mind.

    “Good food ends up rotting in the field. Farmers are left without payment for their crops. And without a stable, reliable income, they are struggling to survive.

    “These practices threaten the livelihoods of hard-working farmers, and jeopardise the availability of fresh, healthy, and locally-grown food for shoppers. If farms continue to close, the British produce that customers know and love risks disappearing from your shelves altogether.”

    The letter adds that a good majority (69 per cent) of fruit and veg farmers agree that tougher regulations are required to address the imbalance of power between supermarkets and farmers.

    The farming leaders are calling supermarkets to make these five commitments to farmers:

    1. Pay what you agreed to pay.

    2. Buy what yo ucommitted to buy.

    3. Agree on fair specifications.

    4. Commit for the long term.

    5. Pay on time.

    The letter is part of the Get Fair About Farming campaign launched by the Riverford Organic vegetable box firm, which is calling for reform of the grocery supply code of practice to better protect farmers, and sets out ‘charter principles’ for supermarkets, urging them to “pay what you agreed to pay, buy what you committed to buy, agree on fair specifications, commit for the long term and pay on time”.

    Guy Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford Organic, said, “British Agriculture is on its knees, and that’s why most small family farms think that they’re not going to be in business the next generation. Is that what we want from our countryside? Is that what we want from our food system? Is that what we want from farmers? Farmers need to be treated fairly; they need some commitment from supermarkets.”

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