Farmers were out in force in Dover as they sought to win the hearts and minds of shoppers in their battle to tackle what they see as unfair competition.

Around 35 tractors and other farm vehicles parked up at Tesco in Whitfield in the latest stage of their ongoing protest against food produced to lower standards than in the UK being imported and stocked in the country’s supermarkets.

The supermarket demonstration, which was agreed in advance with Tesco and with Kent Police, followed a protest the previous week which saw around 40 vehicles block roads by driving slowly around the port for several hours.

The Kent protests, which so far have not been replicated across the country, follow more dramatic action across Europe as farmers across the continent seek to highlight wide-ranging threats to their standard of living.

Romney Marsh shepherd Dylan Vetara, one of the spokespeople for the Dover protests, told South East Farmer that the farmers were out to make a point and to spell out their grievances to the public “without upsetting too many people”. He said they had been given a great reception and had found shoppers interested to hear their point of view.

The car park demonstration was followed by a parade through Dover, although on this occasion it was not designed to hold up the traffic. The organisers say more events are planned, although they are keeping their cards close to their chest to maximise the impact.

“People were very interested in what we had to say,” said Dylan. “A lot of them say they try to buy British produce but clearly not everyone can afford to during the current cost of living crisis.” He said the group had made it clear to shoppers that imported meat and other products could undercut home-grown products because farmers were able to use chemicals banned in the UK.

“Farmers in the UK are proud to provide food to the highest standard,” he said, adding that they were being undercut by government deals that allowed lower quality produce to be imported and sold in supermarkets.

Although Dylan was critical of the NFU, which he said had not offered active support to the Kent protestors, South East Farmer understands that senior officials have been in touch with campaign leaders behind the scenes to discuss their grievances.

On the broader issue, the NFU’s outgoing president, Minette Batters, said: “Here in the UK, we share European farmers’ concerns and frustration.

“Years of unsustainably high production costs and crop losses because of extreme weather are putting farming families under mounting pressure.

“But the British public have demonstrated invaluable support. In 2020, more than a million people signed the NFU’s petition to safeguard British food and farming standards which led to greater government scrutiny over trade deals, and in 2023 nearly 50,000 signatures led to the Prime Minister hosting a Food Security Summit.

“We do not take this support or its influence for granted, and it’s why protests or blockading public roads should always be a last resort.”

The Government, meanwhile, has said it is “looking at ways to further improve fairness in the supply chain and support British farmers and growers, as well as ensuring customers have access to high-quality fresh British products”.

Dylan said public support for the Kent campaign had been strong, and he thanked the people of Dover for their understanding. “We simply want to start the conversation,” he said. “We are civilised people and we want to talk about the issues.”

On the Government’s response, he said: “It’s one thing to say they support British farmers but it’s another to actually do something.” He added: “You’ve only got to look back to Covid-19 to see the importance of sustainable British farming.”