Supermarkets have been accused of ignoring a plea for them to be fair to farmers after a campaign calling for them to adopt fairer principles fell on deaf ears.

The #GetFairAboutFarming campaign has so far been backed by nearly 70,000 members of the British public, along with celebrities including Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden, chef Rick Stein and wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham.

An open letter was sent to the CEOs of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl asking them to treat farmers fairly and warning that the British farming industry was “on its knees”.

But nearly two months on, campaigners claim there has been a “deafening silence” from the high street giants to the campaign, which was launched by organic fruit and veg box company Riverford Organic Farmers, which has a long-standing Fair to Farmers charter. 

The company wants supermarkets to adopt similar principles as a way of spreading fair trade across farming more widely, but despite support from industry bodies Sustain and the Soil Association, along with TV celebrities, chefs and well-known names from the music industry, the ‘big six’ retailers have so far failed to respond.

At the heart of the campaign is a petition calling on the Government to amend the Grocery Supply Code of Practice (GSCP) to require retailers, without exception, to:

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

 Natalie Bennett, former Leader of the Green Party, also backed the campaign, telling the House of Lords: “Farmers suffer major economic loss and a huge amount of food is wasted because supermarkets order food and then refuse to take it and put it on the shelves and it rots in the fields.”

 The petition follows research by Riverford that suggested 49% of British fruit and vegetable farmers said it was likely they would go out of business in the next 12 months, with many blaming supermarkets and their buyers as a leading threat to their livelihoods.

 The company’s founder Guy Singh-Watson paid tribute to the public’s support for the petition, signed by more than 69,700 people as South East Farmer went to press, but said the silence from the supermarkets had been “deafening”.

He added: “British agriculture is on its knees, with research showing that many farmers attribute their fear of closure to the behaviour of supermarkets. And yet not one of the ‘big six’ has responded to our calls for better business practices to safeguard the future of fruit and veg farmers in this country.”