How British supermarkets crush British farmers

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October 16, 2023 Nearly half of UK fruit and veg farmers expect to go bust in the next year, and powerful supermarkets are heavily to blame

There’s a headline in the newspaper Farming UK entitled “Farmers to protest at 30 retailer sites amid anger at unfair treatment,” where the real story is buried nine paragraphs down. It’s a shocker:

“It follows a new survey showing that half (49%) of fruit and vegetable farmers are likely to go out of business in the next 12 months, with many blaming supermarkets as a leading threat to their livelihoods.”

More on this soon. For now, we’ll say three things.

First, who in mainstream media picked this up, beyond the farming press? Both the protest, which is newsworthy enough in itself, and also the terrifying threat to fruit and vegetable farmers, amid a dire cost-of-living crisis – and the response is . . . silence?

Second, here is an image, from a 2019 report on the food system by Moore Stephens.

The bars represents the number of people engaged in the different activities: the top light blue bar represents farmers; the dark bar represents processors, the grey bar represents retailers, and the bottom bar represents consumers.

This new farming story is in the thin neck of the hourglass, where a small number of dominant players have positioned themselves at a major chokepoint in our economies.

Third, this fits a broader pattern that we’ve written about before. The gravitational pull of giant supermarket chains, and monopoly power.

Finally, take a look at this, and ponder.

The Proud to Farm campaign, which organised the protests, is here, and their Twitter / X feed, which contains a lot more details, is here.