Friends of the Earth want curb on supermarket power

-Friends of the Earth (Jan 26 2002)
                   wants key issues of trade and
                   supermarket power addressed, or
                   thousands of farmers will be forced
                   out of business with disastrous effects
                   for the countryside and the rural
Chris Keene, Coordinator, Anti-Globalisation Network
90 The Parkway, Canvey Island, Essex SS8 0AE, England
Tel 01268 682820   Fax 01268 514164


Supermarket Power Threatens Countryside 26 Jan 2002

Press Release






Friends of the Earth today warned the Government that
unless it urgently addressed the key issues of trade and supermarket power
thousands of farmers will be forced out of business with disastrous effects
for the countryside and the rural economy. Neither issue has been tackled by
the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food which is due to
report next Tuesday. FOE's warning was today echoed by two farmers in
Gloucester farmers.Martin Harrell, an apple grower from
Gloucestershire, confirmed the damage that uneconomic prices were having on
fruit growers. He said:"Since December our prices have fallen by up to10
p per pound at a time when they should normally be going up. The industry
could end up dumping thousands of tonnes of the best UK apple crop we have
seen for many years. The main reason for this problem is a lack of shelf
space allocated to us by our supermarkets. Cheap imports from overseas have
not helped the situation."If the major supermarkets continue to force
prices down in this way, the UK won't have a top fruit industry in ten years
time, and all our orchards will be grubbed up. The Government must consider
the impact such changes will have on our countryside ".Dairy farmer
Gareth Watkins added:"Having just restocked after foot and mouth, I find
that liquid milk prices are falling and are now below my production costs.
My buyers are being squeezed by the supermarkets which sell liquid milk at
below acceptable levels to attract customers. I am being asked to run a
business at a loss. I have done all I can to become efficient and meet high
welfare and farming standards. But unless I get a fair deal from the
supermarkets I will not be able to continue. The issue of fair trading must
be urgently addressed.


Pete Riley, Agricultural Campaigner at Friends
of the Earth said:"Farmers must be given a fair deal. Current
supermarket practice and government policy is squeezing out small and medium
sized farmers. Unless the Government tackles thetrading practices of
the big food companies, many of the farmers that manage the countryside for
the benefit of tourism and wildlife will disappear."

Friends of theEarth is calling on the Government to throw out the Code of Conduct drawn up by the Department of Trade and Industry last year which was meant to controlthe way major supermarkets deal with small suppliers including farmers.


considers that the Code which was agreed by the biggest supermarkets, is so
weak that it simply legitimises the worst practices of the supermarkets. FOE
also wants the Government to set up an independent watchdog for all
supermarkets.Other measures needed from Government to set farming in a
more sustainable direction include


:* protecting UK farmers with high
environmental and animal welfare standards from unfair trade rules;


*diverting subsidies away from production and redirecting them to towards
farming practices that enhance the landscape and environment, and support
for strong local food economies;


* directing funding from the Regional
Development Agencies to local producers,processors and retail markets;*
a target for 30% of farmland to be organic by 2010, backed by an Action Plan
to ensure that it is met.




David writes:


This is a great initiative by FOE and, as a livestock farmer, I wish them
all the luck in the world.  We are up against a Government that neither
cares or understands farming.  The initiative has an uphill battle because
it is totally counter to present policy and WTO agreements of global
trading.  The Government is intent on getting our food from the cheapest
sources possible, wherever that is in the world.  We are now eating food
that is not produced to our high standards and the Government does not care.
It also comes from countries where FMD is endemic, albeit (supposedly) from
clear regions.

It makes me angry that Dairy Crest has the audacity to say now that UK milk
producers are over supplying the UK market when in fact the cause of the
oversupply has been Dairy Crest and others importing huge quantities of
dairy produce into the country.  The result is a huge drop in home
processing and a huge drop in milk price as most of the farmers' hard work
in producing the milk is declared UNWANTED by greedy PLC's and an ignorant
Government.  The fact is we are still short of milk in the UK.  In 1983,
when the EU cut the UK production by 9%, we were only 87% self-sufficient.
Since then the population has grown by 10 million and quotas have been cut

It has never been that easy to make a profit milking cows but milk prices
have dropped back again to well below the cost of production.  Dairy Crest,
originally set up by farmers as the buyer of last resort but was forcibly
floated on the Stock Exchange by the Government as a PLC and it has now
become a major importer of dairy and food products.  As a result it has
become one of the fastest growing companies on the FTSE.  The Directors of
Dairy Crest made huge profits for themselves last NOV 15th when they managed
to sell £millions of their own shares at £3.55 and buy them back at £1.55 -
on the same day!!  It must have been the biggest bit of insider dealing ever
achieved. Since then the shares have climbed to £4.51 with the talk of Dairy
Crest merging with a French company.

Whatever is going on in the food industry is not working for farmers.  The
Government is actually powerless to do anything about it because it is being
forced to comply with EU rules on trade.  The only way, I can think to save
British agriculture, would be to come out of the EU and use the £1,800,000
per hour that the EU is costing us to fund our transport, health, schools,
police and farming.

Dairy Farmer, Glos