meurig raymond tv cameras

NFU president Meurig Raymond addresses the media after the farmer summit

British produce could disappear from supermarket shelves unless politicians, retailers and processors face up to the crisis enveloping the farming industry, farmers’ unions have warned.

A joint statement issued on 10 August by the NFU, its divisions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and other farmers organisations including Farmers for Action (FFA), warned that a “seismic change” was required in the way food was sold in the UK – with the farming sector having descended into a “state of emergency”.

Failure to address the current crisis could lead to “dire consequences for the farming industry and the rural economy”, warned the unions, who called on farming ministers from across the UK to meet urgently.

It came after a crisis meeting was held at the NFU’s London HQ in response to widespread protests by farmers over collapsing farmgate prices and what they see as a lack of support from retailers, processors, the government and European Union.

The government needed to admit “that something has gone fundamentally wrong in the supply chain and take remedial action”, said the statement, with voluntary codes such as the one operated by the dairy industry “not delivering on their intended purpose”, it claimed.

In a list of demands, farmers also urged the government to take action to ensure contracts to all farmers were over longer terms and fairer in apportioning risk and reward, and for new rules to be put in place to ensure “it is clear and obvious which products are imported and which are British”.

With milk now 6 pence per litre cheaper than bottled water across the big four supermarkets, retailers were urged to “stop devaluing fresh British food like milk purely to get customers through the door”.

The unions also called on supermarkets to “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,” added the statement. “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.”

The statement also warned that farmers would continue “making their presence felt”, until they felt fairness on price was returning to the supply chain, a sentiment which was echoed by FFA chairman David Handley, who reiterated his warning that “we will bring people, machinery and livestock to London” if no action was taken.

Morrisons is due to meet representatives from FFA and the NFU later today to discuss the “serious issues” facing the British dairy industry, after it was singled out for a wave of protests last week.