Kent farmers stage tractor protest over food imports

Farmers have held a tractor rally through Canterbury to protest against cheap food imports and to demand fairer treatment in the supply chain.

The Fairness for Farmers group organised the protest on Sunday 2 March.

More than 240 tractors and other farming vehicles took part in a “go-slow” demo and drove around Canterbury for more than three hours, finishing at about 3pm.

See also: Video: 3,000 Welsh farmers tell government ‘enough is enough’

The group says the Agriculture Act 2020, together with the poor trade deals negotiated by former foreign secretary Liz Truss and “non-existent” import controls “have exposed Britain to a farming and food security crisis”.

Geoffrey Philpott, a cauliflower farmer based in east Kent, said: “My aim is to produce the highest-quality, safest, healthiest food for the UK market.

“We should be banning substandard imports that aren’t held to the same high standards as UK production and can, in many cases, have chemicals used on them that are banned in the UK.

“I am proud to have a Union flag on all my produce, but why is it foreign produce that is packed in the UK can have a Union flag on it? The only reason is to deceive the public into believing it’s the healthiest and safest food you can buy.”

Tractors in protest

© Fairness for Farmers

If British farmers do not receive fairer prices, many will be forced out of business and the country will become reliant on overseas produce that will not have the same high standard as UK production, he added.

Liz Webster, a farmer’s wife based in Wiltshire and founder of campaign group Save British Farming (SBF), helped to facilitate the protest.

She said: “In 2019, this government was elected with a mandate to uphold our standards and deliver a ready-made deal with the EU which would see British agriculture boom. It is now entirely obvious that they have totally betrayed us all.”

SBF has launched a new online petition to protect British food and farming standards.

Farmer Jeffrey Gibson, from Wingham, Kent, set up the Fairness for Farmers group to protest against cheap food imports and low supermarket prices. The group staged two protests at Dover port last month and is considering a protest at Westminster.

Defra response

In a statement, Defra said: “We firmly back our farmers. British farming is at the heart of British trade and we put agriculture at the forefront of any deals we negotiate, prioritising new export opportunities, protecting UK food standards and removing market access barriers.

“We’ve maintained the £2.4bn annual farming budget which supports farmers to produce food profitably and sustainably and are also looking at ways to further improve fairness in the supply chain and support British farmers and growers, as well as ensuring customers have access to high-quality fresh British products.”

Welsh farmers have held separate protests against anti-farming government policies, including a mass peaceful protest at the Senedd in Cardiff last week. Mass farmer-led protests have been taking place across EU countries for several months.

NFU polling shows that the public back British farming and food and want to maintain the country’s high food standards and support local producers.

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