11 February 2000

Blockades back…

BLOCKADES of supermarket depots have started again and look set to continue on a regular basis covering all the main companies.

Pembrokeshire farmer Rhys Parry led his army across the border to the Safeway depot near Bristol last week where he was joined by farmers from Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon.

Last July Safeway said it would be promoting and supporting Welsh lamb, but the minute the price started rising a little, in came the New Zealand lamb by air using tax-free aviation fuel, said Mr Parry.

John Pratt, chairman of the Welsh region of the National Beef Association, said the police officer in charge had congratulated the gathering on the way they had handled the demonstration and wished them well. That was a major contrast with similar events last year involving other supermarkets, when large numbers of police in riot gear were paraded, he said.

"This was not a yob mob, they were high calibre farmers, some of them in a substantial way of business and looking to protect their future." Another group of farmers blockaded Safeways depot at Warrington, Lancs, on the same night, protesting about low milk prices. Next day farmers representing the main sectors met Safeway managers in Bristol. Safeway denied they were trying to put farmers out of business by forcing prices down.

They could not pay more with the top three highly competitive chains looking down on them.