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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

26-07-2008

"Every country should be self sufficient in food, all else is a luxury." This message from Sharon Ebanks on the Stirrer’s message board in May is coming from food producers in many countries – including those attending the Family Farmers' Association meeting in Westminster Hall on July 9th.

"It is immoral to pay a price below costs of production and should also be made illegal" said Richard Livesey, one of the food producers who attended.

Family Farmers Association

The main speaker, William Taylor [right], from Coleraine Northern Ireland, coordinator of Fairness for Farmers in Europe [FFE], said that family farming could feed the world - not corporate agriculture. He gave several reasons:

large-scale operations run into trouble
rivers of slurry accumulate
there is excessive use of fertiliser and pesticide
numbers of people living and working in rural areas are thrown out of work
and the local economy and suppliers are damaged
GM corporations are attempting to control the supply of seeds, water and fertiliser.

MP Andrew George spoke about the Cross-cutting Remedies Group, linking organisations such as the Action Aid charity, the pressure group Friends of the Earth, and the Association of Convenience Stores, a trade body. It has called for the establishment of a supermarket watchdog with legal powers to stop the exploitation of farmers, and other small suppliers, by the UK's biggest supermarkets.

An FFE member asked Asda why potatoes sold to them for £8 a tonne retailed at £100-150, but no answer was given.

Faced with the possibility of growers in England, Scotland and Holland withholding their potatoes, the Asda spokesman said, ”it will never happen - farmers won’t work together”.

This is not always so. Irish farmers induced Tesco in Northern Ireland not to import Brazilian beef when there was Irish beef available.

Sugar beet growers, who received a low offer for next year’s crops from the buyer, British Sugar, have decided to act together with the NFU to offer a ‘take it or leave it’ minimum price for 2009. If the price offered is too low, they will grow a different crop. On August 15th, the contract deadline, the offer will be made.

If collective action persuades supermarkets and processors to cut their profit margins a little and give a fair price for produce, instead of purchasing supplies at below production costs, it will enable food producers to stay in business and ensure greater food security.

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