A petition from Riverford Organic Farmers calling for supermarkets to offer a fairer deal to British farmers has been signed by more than 100,000 people, crossing the threshold for a parliamentary debate.
The #GetFairAboutFarming campaign was launched two months ago after a survey of small fruit & veg growers by Riverford revealed that half feared they could be out of business within a year because of the ‘big six’ supermarkets’ “unfair” treatment of them.
The supermarkets could now face public scrutiny in Parliament as the petition has crossed the 100,000 signature minimum required for consideration.
“The huge support for Riverford’s petition underscores the public’s deep concern for ensuring farmers receive a fair deal,” said Will White, sustainable farming co-ordinator at food sector charity Sustain. “The immense top-down pressure from supermarkets forces farmers into a stark choice: intensify or quit.”
Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson, who launched the campaign, initially sent an open letter to the CEOs of the leading supermarkets, warning them that the British farming industry was “on its knees” and calling for fairer trading practices.
However, there had been no response from the retailers so far despite public support, he said.
Central to the campaign is a call to amend the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, to ensure supermarkets are required to buy what they agreed to buy, pay what they agreed to pay, and pay on time, without exception.
“This many voices cannot be ignored,” said Singh-Watson. “It is high time for supermarkets to be held to account for their ruthless practices, and for hard-working farmers to be guaranteed a fair deal.”
“By amending the Grocery Supply Code of Practice, the government could secure a fair and sustainable future for British family farms,” he added.
Riverford wants supermarkets to adopt some of the principles from Riverford’s long-standing Fair to Farmers charter, a document used by the supplier to lay down ethical business practices among growers and farmers, to ensure a fair deal is always achieved.
“We need a supply chain that facilitates, not hinders, the shift to nature-friendly farming,” said White. “Decisive government action and strong regulation is essential to stop major retailers’ exploitative practices and secure the future of fruit & vegetable production in the UK.”