NFU pledges to tackle retailers over imports

The NFU has vowed to ramp up the pressure on retailers after farmers accused supermarkets of failing to honour pledges of support for British agriculture.

Concern at a lack of retail support for British farmers remains high among livestock producers. Supermarkets were failing to promote British meat and stocking too much imported lamb, delegates at an NFU Council meeting were told on Tuesday (15 October).

In response, NFU president Peter Kendall said: “In all the time I’ve been doing this job, I’ve never experienced retailers wanting to brag so much about buying British. Are they doing it well? No. Are they delivering on those promises? No they’re not.”

Supermarkets had recruited NFU staff in a bid to beef up their agricultural departments and get closer to farmers, said Mr Kendall. But it was important that the NFU held retailers to account when they failed, he added.

Wiltshire farmer Minette Batters said she was “beginning to despair” at union attempts to engage with retailers. It was difficult to see, for example, what had been achieved by Tesco presentation at NFU Council meeting earlier in the year, she said.

Despite pledges made in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain had stopped using the Red Tractor logo on its range of finest burgers. Its next nearest competitor, Sainsbury’s had stopped using the Red Tractor logo altogether on its own label food items.

Even Waitrose was distributing animal welfare leaflets within the pages of its in-house magazine, said Ms Batters. A recent edition contained a flyer for Compassion in World Farming, a charity which was openly critical of mainstream livestock production practices.

“Unless we are going to be proactive as a union and get retailers actually putting some money into the tractor [scheme], the primary producer is paying for everything. We are looking at having standards ramped up, costs ramped up and yet at the end of the line they are putting nothing in.”

Sussex farmer Frank Langrish said there was also an issue with supermarkets stocking too much New Zealand lamb at the expense of British producers. Once, supermarkets promoted British lamb more prominently, he said. Now, British producers were being “left to our own devices”.

More on this issue

More on the Red Tractor

See more