Tag Archives: Fairtrade coffee

Fair trade: Northern Irish, Scottish and now English/Welsh food producers are lobbying politicians.

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Farmers For Action are holding an ‘all-sector’ march in London on Wednesday 23 March 2016 to represent the farming industry – with pig farmers, horticulturists, dairy farmers and other food producers.

david handley 5Spokesman David Handley says “we are still in conversation with processors and retailers alike and are delivering a very strong message most of what we are having to do in respect of London has been brought about by them and obviously the lack of any leadership from the current government”.

Regular readers will know about the negotiations undertaken by Farmers for Action in Northern Ireland, which include a recent meeting with Jim Allister and other MLAS.

On Thursday, the Scottish Farmer reports, political leaders were speaking – and listening we hope – to farmers and crofters at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh highlighting the importance of farming to the rural economy and to the whole nation.

fdf scots demoA crowd of more than two hundred heard from NFU president Allan Bowie, before being addressed by the Deputy First Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Scottish Conservative leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader and Scottish Labour spokesperson. Bowie said:

“The unanimous message given by Scotland’s leading politicians to farmers today is that they recognise that farming matters and that the rural community matters. We want those words to translate into actions and when party manifestos emerge in the next few weeks, issues relevant to farming, food and the rural economy must be front and centre.

“But politicians must also address our dysfunctional supply chain. At a time when Scotland’s food and drink sector is growing in value, returns to the farm gate have fallen two years in a row and are set to fall again. For the farming community standing here today, we want to be part of the Scotland food and drink industry success story but the fact we are continually failing to get a fair margin needs to be addressed.

“The Scottish public want us to keep producing food, supporting local economies and delivering the fantastic landscape that Scotland enjoys. It is now up to Scottish Government to meet its own deadlines on delivering vital support and all political parties to ensure their manifestos will take the Scottish rural economy forward.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney came out on to the Holyrood courtyard to tell the farmers that he was “acutely aware” of the crisis facing the industry. “This is the right place to express your views. We hear you loud and clear,” he said.

“While we have robust political debate inside the chamber, all political parties agree that food production in this country is an absolute priority,” said Richard Lochhead, minister for rural affairs. “Helping out our food producers in their hour of need, whether that’s because of the issues we’ve had with payments or the weather, or because of low market prices, we have to do what we can to make sure that the skills you represent and the jobs you sustain and the support you give to Scotland is maintained going forward.”

Good words. But many are asking when British people will be able to put fairly traded milk in their Fairtrade coffee after a fairly traded breakfast.

 

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Government should ensure the country’s future food security

 

The supermarket ombudsman has announced what has been known to food producers for many years: that Tesco (and we add, others) “knowingly delayed paying money to suppliers in order to improve its own financial position”.

The position of successive governments is that – as farmers go to the wall – we can increase food imports from a global market designed only to enhance the profits of the already rich middlemen and commodity speculators. That means, as at present, importing cheap food from countries outside the EU with poorer standards of animal husbandry.

Cheap yes – now but it is a basis commercial practice to gain a foothold in the market, undercut rivals eventually wiping them out of business, then being free to set price levels at will.

In calling for fair trade in Britain – the ability to put fairly traded milk in Fairtrade coffee is recognised by Fairtrade chief, Barbara Crowther – but a thoughtful reader has reservations:

On the Fair Price for Farmers issue I agree that it is vital that environmental costs, especially carbon footprints, are taken into account in all economic calculations. Also that big business should not be able to hold small business to ransom. But, with these important provisos, I would none the less be cautious about supporting ANY BUSINESS ANYWHERE in that some industries are just not likely to be profitable either because of, say, an unsuitable climate or the lack of skill or diligence on the part of those involved. The issues seem to me a bit different and in some respects more complex than in the usual FairTrade process. But some one needs to make a start!

He was informed that assessments of the costs of competent production have been done – there are a few methodologies – the best was an earlier study by the RABDF – a note on this work was attached.

Just price/fair trade theory was put into practice in medieval Britain – see the work of R.H.Tawney. It is not just a matter of food security but of basic justice.

In England, Scotland and Wales, to varying extents, government and large agricultural bodies have used a version of the colonial divide and rule practice with food producers, so that in each sector, milk, meat, veg and fruit producers look inward to their own affairs and as relatively small entities are powerless to press effectively for change – most urgently needed for those selling quickly perishable food.

Not so in Northern Ireland – see farmers there combining, commissioning fact-finding research, and entering effectively into dialogue with Stormont, before forthcoming elections (see next post).