MORE than 75,000 shoppers have signed a petition urging the Big Six supermarkets and their suppliers to treat British farmers more fairly, as their desperate calls for fairer treatment continue to be left unanswered.
An open letter was sent to the CEOs of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl over six weeks ago warning that the British farming industry was “on its knees”.
Despite the considerable time that has passed, not one of the supermarket chiefs has even acknowledged the heartfelt #GetFairAboutFarming campaign, which was launched by organic fruit and veg box company, Riverford.
Riverford, who have a long-standing Fair to Farmers charter, wants supermarkets to adopt some of these principles as a way of spreading fair trade across the industry more widely.
With the supporting petition rocketing to over 75,000 signatures, and securing the backing of high profile supporters like Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden, chef Rick Stein and wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham, consumers are sending a clear and definite message to the Big Six.
Green Party peer Natalie Bennett, the former Leader of the party, also backed the campaign and raised it in the House of Lordssaid, “A handful of big supermarkets have a huge – a dominant – role in British life, their actions crucial in the cost-of-living crisis, for food security in an insecure world, and the fate of farmers and the countrywide.
“With that power comes responsibility to engage with their critics and questioners, not to ignore them. Society has privileged the supermarkets, carries many of the costs their choices impose on it – from waste disposal to congestion, and in return deserves openness and honesty.”
The petition calls for the government to amend the Grocery Supply Code of Practice (GSCP). The proposed amendments would see supermarkets required to buy what they agreed to buy, pay what they agreed to pay, and pay on time, without exception.
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.
As the petition edges closer to 100,000 signatures, the pressure is mounting for supermarkets to act by committing to provide real, positive changes to the future of British farming – and sparing themselves the embarrassment of a possible debate in parliament over their harmful buying practices.
Guy Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford Organic says: “Over 75,000 people have now taken a stand to support small family farms by backing the #GetFairAboutFarming petition – in just over six weeks.
“We’ve had farmers, the food and farming commission and lots of farming campaigners back our calls for better supermarket business practices. We’ve even had the House of Lords Select Committee on Horticulture calling for more or less the same thing.
“Despite the encouraging public support, the lack of a mere acknowledgement from the ‘Big Six’ is insulting at a time when British agriculture is on its knees, with research showing that many farmers attribute their fear of closure to the behaviour of supermarkets.
“Our countryside is being desecrated because that’s the only way you can produce ‘cheap food’ and farmers in my sector are not being paid fairly. Now that 75,000 shoppers are standing up for better supermarket business practices, there is a clear message being sent to the ‘big six’ and the government to safeguard the future of British fruit and veg farmers.
“I urge everyone to get online and sign the #GetFairAboutFarming petition. With the petition edging closer to 100,000 supporters, the pressure further increases on supermarkets to act now and avoid having their poor practices exposed to the nation in a debate in parliament.”