Sue Hayman MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, explains why it is vital for farmers to receive a fair price for their produce as Brexit draws nearer.
I’m delighted to support the new Farmers Guardian campaign, Farming: The Backbone of Britain, which comes at such a critical time for our agriculture industry.
Farming faces more uncertainty over Brexit than probably any other sector of the UK economy, as trade deals on import and export tariffs could have a direct effect on farm gate incomes and the livelihoods of thousands of people in agriculture and food production.
One thing that could give farmers more economic certainty closer to home would be for the Government to increase the powers and remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA), a Labour Party policy which I set out last year in our election manifesto.
As a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Business, I also met with other members to press the Minister to increase the powers and remit of the GCA as part of the recent review.
Because of the climate of fear around the huge buying power of the big supermarkets, we held sessions in Parliament where farmers and producers could give evidence anonymously so as to not prejudice their businesses in any way.
The consensus from witnesses was that an extended GCA is necessary to:
The GCA needs to have the power to ensure farmers are paid a fair price and tackle unfair trading, while at the same time ensuring that food is affordable.
But in many areas we seem to have lost the relationship between the price paid to the farmer and the price set by the retailer. This situation is not helped by the volatility of the market in, for example, the dairy industry.
I am sure consumers would not expect fresh produce to be sold at below the cost of production; so surely it is time to give the GCA the powers to protect farmers from being exploited as well as to protect consumers from price hikes – putting the pressure on supermarkets to buy fairly and sell fairly, and recognise the pressures throughout the supply chain from production to manufacturing, processing and food service.
Farming is indeed the backbone of Britain; it is time for the Government to show some backbone too, and give the GCA the power to intervene and force market improvements for Britain’s farmers.