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Barbara's Blog

FAIR TRADE FOR ALL

09-07-2008

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As Barbara Panvel reports, fair trade isn't just an issue for growers abroad - it's also relevant to farmers and producers closer to home. Here's news of the latest award for the "middle men" who try to guarantee a decent deal.

Fair Deal Award
July 5th at the Royal Show

Well-supported fair trade campaigns by the Farmers Guardian, the Women’s Institutes and the National Farmers Union have called for food producers in this country to be given payment which covers the costs of production.

Vegetables, especially cauliflowers and cucumbers, are going for such low prices that growing them will soon be commercially unviable.

Cheap imports continue to reduce bargaining power in all sectors and there are fears that, if the latest WTO proposals are accepted, tariffs on imported beef will be lowered and the price of homegrown beef will fall to an unsustainable level. Pork prices have moved up but are still about 16p per kilogram below average production costs.

Localise West Midlands supports Fair Deal Awards because it believes that fair trade is an issue in the West Midlands as well as abroad, with power imbalances between big corporations and small producers and also between rich and poor countries.

Earlier awards were presented to Waitrose by dairy farmer Andrew Hemming in December and to customers at Fordhall Farm Shop by Charlotte Hollins in February. The last award will be presented this summer.

Brian Swift of Hazel Farm Bickenhill nominated Rugby Farmers Mart, which has now relocated to Stoneleigh Park, for providing a good service to farmers. He has been selling his beef cattle there for many years and gets a good return.

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When the torrential rain had eased off, Jon Morris of Localise West Midlands presented the award to Matthew Mayne of RFM, as Brian Swift was called away at the last moment.

On the far right is Simon Frere-Cook, Director of the Royal Show, also representing the Royal Agricultural Society of England.

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Though cattle markets are important to livestock farmers, many have closed. Transport restrictions, imposed to prevent disease spreading, have forced farmers to use other methods of selling their livestock and developers are keen to buy the attractive town centre sites on which most markets are located.

Speaking to Renee van Baar of Localise West Midlands, Brian said, “There are hardly any markets left in the area and going further afield to get a better price is no use because of high transport prices".

He added, "Things are going to get harder. Farming doesn't pay nowadays, and even after diversifying it is difficult". Getting a good price for his livestock is essential and using this new local market will enable farmers in the region to get a good price and reduce fuel costs.

After the meeting I spoke to a entomologist from the Animal Health Institute’s Bluetongue Information stall nearby and he reinforced our concern. From a farming background, he had always hoped to continue as a farmer, but poor returns had eventually caused the family to leave the land and he’d been compelled to change course. Food security demands that, in future, skilled food producers are valued, treated fairly and retained.

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Will supermarkets ever be persuaded or compelled to reduce profit margins and pass a fair price back to farmers and growers?

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