Prince Charles has spoken out against supermarkets, which he says are profiteering from farmers and “taking none of the risk”.

Writing in Country Life magazine, which he guest edited this week, the Prince of Wales said small farms acted as a “buffer”, protecting retailers from market volatility.

“Small farms find themselves in the iniquitous position of taking the biggest risk, often acting as the buffer for the retailer and consumer against all the economic uncertainties of producing food, but receiving the least return,” said the Prince.

“It cannot be right that a typical hill farmer earns just £12,600, with some surviving on as little as £8,000 a year, whilst the big retailers and their shareholders do so much better out of the deal, having taken none of the risk.”

He said many small- and medium-sized farms could not afford to make crucial long-term reinvestment and he feared this would create huge problems in the future, especially in the dairy sector.

This view is supported by the latest DEFRA farm income figures which show incomes in most sectors fell across 2012-13, with dairy falling 40% in the year to February 2013.

Farm charities are increasingly dealing with calls from farming families who are struggling financially. Meanwhile, £23.7bn was spent in supermarkets in the 12 weeks to 13 October, a 3% rise on the previous year.

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Cheap food ‘destroying’ farmers – Prince Charles