UK fruit and vegetable farmers are set to stage a scarecrow protest outside Parliament on Monday morning, protesting what they perceive as “unfair” treatment by the country’s six largest supermarket chains.
In an effort to emphasize the plight of 49% of farmers teetering on the edge of leaving the industry, demonstrators plan to position 49 scarecrows outside the British legislature, as outlined by Guy Singh-Watson, one of the protest organizers.
“British agriculture is on its knees,” asserted Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford Organic, which spearheaded the petition. He criticized government policies for failing to deliver sufficient support to farmers, often going unenforced.
Singh-Watson lamented, “The livelihoods of our farmers are being laid to waste.”
The protesting farmers are advocating for supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi, and Lidl, to adhere to “fair” purchasing agreements. This includes buying agreed quantities and making timely payments “without exception.”
They argue that the unfair purchasing agreements imposed by these supermarket chains could force many farmers out of business within the next 12 months.
The protest is scheduled to coincide with lawmakers’ discussions on a petition submitted by the farmers, urging an overhaul of the grocery supply chain code of practice.
With over 112,000 signatures, the petition calls on the government to guarantee that retailers “buy what they agreed,” “pay what they agreed,” and make payments on time.
“Without fairer treatment for farmers, the reality is the destruction of British farming along with the landscape, wildlife, and rural communities it once supported,” warned Singh-Watson.
William White, a coordinator at the Sustain alliance for sustainable farming, emphasized that the protest aims to convey “a stark message” about the necessity of robust government regulation to ensure farmers receive a fair deal for the food they produce.
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stressed the vital role of fruit and vegetable farmers in bolstering the resilience of the UK’s food system and the wider economy.
The department stated, “It is only right that British farmers and growers should be paid a fair price, and our review into the fairness of the supply chain will help address these concerns.”
Last year, farming and food leaders penned an open letter to supermarkets, criticizing their buying practices as “all too often imbalanced, short-term, and wasteful,” leaving farmers “struggling to survive.”
The letter highlighted instances where supermarkets reject entire crops at the last minute, resulting in good food rotting in the field, and farmers being left without payment for their crops, jeopardizing their ability to sustain a stable income.