Gleanings - AF Weekly news summary
11th October 2023

Here’s what caught our eyes and ears in the agri news from UK and further afield this week.

Devastation in Scotland

September wrought destruction on Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and worst of all in Libya as Storm Daniel dumped a years worth of rain in a day. 11,000 Libyans were killed and 10,000 others are still missing. Storm Dana then smashed into Spain killing at least three people.

Now it is the turn of Scotland where up to 160mm of rain fell over the weekend, causing widespread flooding and disruption. The area with the largest impact is thought to stretch from Inveraray in Argyll through central Scotland almost to the east coast.

Scottish farming leaders have called for immediate help from the Scottish government, with estimates that many million of pounds worth of fruit and vegetable crops have been lost. Potatoes, turnips, broccoli and strawberries have all been affected. In the wake of low 2022 yields due to drought, and delays in planting in 2023 due to wet land this is a body blow for many Scottish producers.


No shortage of agricultural workers apparently

The Government has just undertaken it’s first review of the Shortage Occupations List, and despite being requested to add eight agricultural occupations, none have been accepted.

The NFU submitted requests for jobs including General Farm Worker, Dairy Operative, Hatchery Operative and Packhouse Machine Operative.

The list of 38 shortage occupations does include Care Workers, Brick Layers and Vets alongside, curiously, Orchestral Musicians, Artists, Web Designers and a raft of other occupations which are all splendid in their own way, but surely not as vital to UK plc as feeding our population?

Sign o’ the times…

Farmers Guide and FarmingUK both report on a petition on the Government website urging the ‘Big Six’ supermarkets (Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl) to adopt fairer practices, warning that the British farming industry is “on its knees”.

The petition has so far received nearly 60,000 signatures, and if it gets 100,000 signatures it will have to be debated in parliament.

The #GetFairAboutFarming petition is asking the Government to amend the Grocery Supply Code of Practice (GSCP) to compel retailers to:

  • Buy what they agreed to buy
  • Pay what they agreed to pay
  • Pay on time.

If you would like to add your name to the petition, this is where to sign.

An open letter was sent to the supermarket CEOs a fortnight ago asking them to treat farmers fairly – however, there has been a ‘deafening silence’ in response.

The campaign is being led by Riverford Organic founder and farmer Guy Singh-Watson who said “The supermarkets must act now. This marks a critical moment where we can take a stand against harmful practices, and create a better, fairer future for British food and farming.”

…Chaos and disorder.

In a move not unrelated to the petition above, Farmers Weekly reports that farmers are planning a nationwide ‘night of action’ against supermarket distribution centres (DCs). The protests are in protest against continued low prices, and to demand more support for British farming.

The Proud to Farm group will disrupt DCs belonging to Morrisons, Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s on 13th October. In total, more than 30 sites across the UK will be targeted.

A spokesperson for the group said: “It’s time to make a stand, change your future. I need tractors, lorries, cars in every county of the UK. We need the whole of the UK to unite. Farmers and public as one. British fightback has begun.”

There is a feeling within the industry that whilst farmers are suffering with additional costs and often wafer thin or non-existent profits, retailers are failing to pass on a fair share of their returns to farmers.

…Hot from the Labour Party conference

And as if the farmer actions reported above wasn’t enough, on Monday 9th October the Guardian reported from the Labour Party conference, where their new environment team says it will take on big businesses and supermarkets in order to halt pollution and stop farmers from being ripped off if, it wins the next election.

The shadow nature and rural affairs minister, Toby Perkins, has pledged to help farmers in the fight for better prices from supermarkets. He told an event at the conference: “I think we have to bring the supermarkets into this question as well, because clearly the pressure to drive down costs all the time within farming is significant, and the price that they are able to gain from supermarkets in the UK isn’t always comparable with what farmers overseas will be able to get. I’m aware that many farmers and food producers feel badly let down.”

So hopefully between the petition, the DC blockades and the next Labour Government supporting farmers, “things can only get better!”


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