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Farm chiefs issue plea for 'seimsic changes' in bid to save industry

By Chris McCullough

Published 11/08/2015

Local farmers protest at Sainsbury’s supermarket in Coleraine
Local farmers protest at Sainsbury’s supermarket in Coleraine

The Westminster Government and retailers have been urged to support the farming industry before it goes under.

During a summit meeting in London yesterday farming leaders united to send a clear message that the industry needs help and needs it now.

Farming leaders from a number of bodies - including Ulster Farmers Union president Ian Marshall - urged Government, retailers and processors and the European Union, not to ignore the warning signs that farming is in a state of emergency.

They said there needs to be a "seismic change in the way food is sold or there could be dire consequences for the farming industry and rural economy".

A joint statement was issued from the four union presidents of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers Union.

The statement read: "We would urge farm ministers across the UK to meet urgently.

"They need to admit that something has gone fundamentally wrong in the supply chain and take remedial action.

"In general, voluntary codes are not delivering their intended purpose.

"Government needs to take action to ensure that contracts to all farmers are longer-term and fairer in apportioning risk and reward.

"At the moment in many contracts all the risk is put on the farmer with very little of the reward.

"Government also needs to urgently ensure that rules are put in place regarding labelling so that it is clear and obvious which products are imported and which are British.

"We are all looking for Government to ensure that British products are marketed abroad and that new markets are opened up for our high quality British food."

NFU president Meurig Raymond pulled no punches when he spoke to the media in London after the meeting.

He said: "We all recognise the despair and the concern within the farming industry.

"We have come together and we are totally agreed on a plan of action.

"Firstly we need a summit of the Secretary of State and all of the devolved Ministers to sit down and we need to explain to them the seriousness of the situation.

"There is a lot here that Government can do. It needs to promote British farming.

"The contractual issues right through the supply chain from retailers to farmers need to be looked at. They need to be fairer.

"All the risk at the moment in these extremely volatile times is with the farmer. Let's put some fair contracts in place that means everyone is carrying some risk.

"Farmers need some reward because unless farmers are profitable they cannot stay in business and that will have a major effect across the entire food chain.

"We are going to write to all the chief executives of all the major retailers and the discounters to explain their sourcing policies to us.

"We want to thank the general public, our consumers, for the support they have given us. Consumers should challenge the retailers in what they are doing to support British farmers.

"Ideally, we would like to sit down with ministers tomorrow but it's probably going to be the end of the week before we meet them," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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