Farmers squeezed by supermarkets to milk more profit
The UK dairy industry is on the verge of “meltdown” unless the big supermarkets treat farmers more fairly, said the president of the National Farmers’ Union.
Peter Kendall told the union’s annual conference that a relentless squeeze on prices by the supermarkets was putting three dairy farmers a day out of business and said that more UK investment had to be made in the sector.
Kendall was sceptical of the supermarkets’ claims that they are committed to ‘responsible retailing’, and said that many of their claims on this issue were little more than vapid public relations exercises.
However, the supermarkets countered his arguments and argued that they do treat their suppliers fairly, making a substantial UK investment in their businesses.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King said that on the whole he was very happy with the way he dealt with farmers, although he conceded there had been “isolated” incidents where suppliers had been badly treated by buyers.
But Kendall still criticised the supermarkets for putting short-term profits ahead of sustainability “In the City, long-term means after lunch, and we are talking about an industry that really does want to be looking three, four, five years ahead in terms of the UK investment that needs to be made in it.”