Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord has called for the government to give new powers to the Grocery Code Adjudicator, so it can properly protect Devon’s farmers.
The Adjudicator oversees the interactions between farmers and retailors, with a focus on ensuring fair play. However, it current lacks the power to properly investigate incidents where supermarkets take advantage of small family-run farms and producers.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Foord showcased the huge importance of farmers to rural communities and how vulnerable many currently are due to uncertain financial conditions, which puts the future of traditional market towns at risk.
He criticised the government for their lack of support for British farmers with their push for new trade deals which undermine our food and animal welfare standards and their botched phasing out of the Basic Payment – which has seen many farms lose a substantial amount of their income.
He also highlighted that while the big six supermarkets made bumper profits last year, a survey by Riverford Organic Farmers found that 49% of farmers fear going out of business next year with 75% citing supermarket pressure as their main pressure.
The Tiverton & Honiton MP recently helped secure a 'Buy British' section from Morrisons to promote local produce. He is now pushing Ministers to properly empower the Adjudicator so it can ensure farmers get the fair deal they deserve.
Speaking after the debate, Richard Foord MP said:
“Here in our beautiful part of Devon, our farmers are the beating heart of our communities.
“Not only do they grow the food for our tables, they can also play a huge role in tending the countryside and protecting our natural environment. They are key allies in our fight to reduce carbon emissions and tackle persistent flooding.
“That’s why it’s so disappointing to see this Conservative Government continue to let down our farmers. They have completely bungled the transition away from the Basic Payment and signed new trade deals that allow lower-quality meat from abroad to undercut our home-grown produce.
“At present farmers have little protection against the big supermarkets. The big six supermarkets seem more focused on paying rock-bottom prices to pad-out their profits, instead of ensuring farmers get a fair share. This has to change.
“The so-called 'Groceries Code Adjudicator' needs to be properly empowered so it can ensure farmers get a fair price for their goods, but also that they are not left waiting months for payment.
“With more than 1,500 people across Mid- and East Devon backing the petition, it’s vital that the
Government takes action - and does so swiftly.”