Posted by Alex Kragiopoulos
The team at Responsible research have been keeping an eye on the issues raised by dairy farmers recently in relation to the price they are receiving for their milk. However today’s headline in the observer points to the strain placed on farmers in all sectors as a result of the recession. Aside from the dairy farmers, farmers in other sectors have claimed that “home grown foods will be a thing of the past unless supermarkets share the cost of endless special offers”. The article has raised concerns here at responsible research. Surely the supermarkets have a responsibility to ensure that the futures of farmers in all sectors are guaranteed as well as delivering the best prices for consumers?
Sarah Dawson, chairman of the National Farmers Union's horticulture and potatoes board, points to the burden placed on farmers by special promotions at supermarkets: "When you see a deal in the supermarket that looks too good to be true, it probably is! Somebody is paying for the cost of the 33% extra, the 50% off or the bogof [buy one get one free] – and it's usually the grower, I'm sorry to say. "We simply can't take the strain of paying for promotions that have got longer, deeper and more frequent. We all want consumers to have value, but more of the costs should be shared with retailers." It is difficult for horticultural farmers in particular as they often deal with supermarkets directly, unlike other sectors, and are therefore forced to bear the burden of supermarket promotions as the supermarkets refuse to move on their margins. Tom Salmon, a farmer in East Yorkshire, claims that Tesco demanded a 47% margin and “if they didn’t get that, they would send us a bill”. Tesco has fully defended its pricing policies in a time of recession which is hitting everybody hard. But how can the future of farmers be safeguarded if there continues to be no compromise in favour of these valued producers?
At Responsible research we have witnessed an increase in the empathy shown to farmers and growers when we talk about grocery shopping with a range of consumers. Yes, consumers want low prices and good offers and have become used to getting any produce at any time of the year. However as soon as they become aware of the issues farmers face they have shown and the majority would continue to support British farmers. Surely there is a new balance point whereby farmers can get a fair price for their labours; supermarkets can show they are supporting farmers and consumers can see that balance and fairness is in place. We believe this is a better position for supermarkets to take to build longer terms consumer support.
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