The principles behind the Fair Trade movement, widely associated with the developing world, need to be applied in Britain if farmers are to get a better deal.
This message is at the heart of a campaign designed to raise farming incomes launched in this month’s issue of Country Living magazine.
“Many of Britain’s retailers are not making a commitment to their suppliers – they make little effort to build relationships and refuse to pay farmers a fair price for their products,” said Susy Smith, the magazine’s editor.
“The net result is that every day more farms are going out of business,” she added.
The Fair Trade for British Farmers initiative aims to get consumers to buy fresh produce from retailers who pay a fair price.
Other key parts of the campaign are urging consumers to check country-of-origin labels and to buy milk from Waitrose, which was praised for its dealings with suppliers.
“As fair trade works well for the developing world, it’s common sense to apply those principles to farming here – helping to secure the future of our farmers and therefore our countryside,” said Ms Smith.
“How many of us have made a cup of coffee, safe in the knowledge that a producer in Kenya has received a fair price for growing it, yet when we added the milk, didn’t give a second thought to the farmer in Sussex who is struggling to survive.”
Fairtrade Foundation deputy director Ian Bretman said the principle of ensuring the producer gets a premium was the same in this country as in the developing world.
The fair trade movement has gone “from a niche to the norm” in 15 years and a similar mood swing needs to happen in relation to UK farmers, he said. But he urged people to remember the differences between Britain and the Third World. “There are billions of people living on a dollar a day.”
Helen Bagwell of the Farm Crisis Network said the issues did have some parallels with those of the Third World. “What we face in this country is people going out of business and losing their homes – not starving. But a lot of farmers’ problems do boil down to low prices. We don’t want a sympathy vote from consumers. We want them to be supportive of us.”
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