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Fairtrade must begin at home to help our dairy farmers

It didn’t ought to be so difficult. Why waste more time in argument? A farmer whose business is to produce milk has to be able to make his business pay.

No ifs, no buts, no taking into consideration the influences of global markets. If his business doesn’t pay, his farm goes out of business – as has been happening in alarming numbers over recent years and as will continue to happen unless we start to get real about food and drink.

And production of all food and drink – in a country that produces precious little else – is very much our business.

The injustice that has escalated into crisis over pitiful prices paid to dairy farmers is our concern every bit as much as it is a continuing worry to milk producers on the brink of going bust.

It is a scandal in itself. But it also crystallises and epitomises frighteningly a skewed attitude to staple diet for best possible nutrition that has led us down a rocky path to poor health, self-delusion and some pretty nasty imports.

Dairy farmers, milk processors, retailers and government ministers have been locked into this no-brainer milk pricing stalemate for too long a time. Is that because big corporate noise is heard more readily than the make-or-break pleadings of small producers?

Processors want dairy farms to be bigger, retailers want milk to be cheaper, ministers want to avoid reputation damaging conflict and consumers – waking suddenly to the injustice poured into a cup of tea – just want what’s right.

It’s a pity we didn’t stand up for what was right years ago when we slept through the rise and rise of our food supply’s politicisation and global corporate control.

Without so much as a whimper, we gave away our fishing rights. With not so much as a backward glance, we fell for a bargain basement appeal of imported and mass-produced meat and poultry, battery eggs, processed ready-meals, crammed deliberately with ingredients added to hook us into a cloying artificial, fatty sweetness to keep us coming back for more.

Through it all we trusted blindly that farmers and local producers who have shaped our landscapes and fed us well for a healthy life for generations, would always be around. They won’t. We’re losing them.

It’s no good salving consciences by buying Fairtrade bananas to aid Caribbean growers, if we’re actively aiding and abetting the demise of Cumbrian dairy farmers. Our neighbours and friends.

Fairtrade begins at home. In fact, in the face of runaway global market domination, there’s reason to argue Fairtrade begins and ends at home.

We’ll only stem the haemorrhage of home-produced, wholesome local food supply by rejecting the burgeoning corporate pressure of large processors and supermarket chains.

In this county we produce the best there is. There’s a price to pay for that – a fair price that allows our producers to stay in business.

If we consumers – along with the Women’s Institute – can see that, why can’t government, corporations and penny-pinching supermarkets?

Have your say

Coming from a farming background and being a agricultural contractor/ farmer myself it really annoys me when people go on about subsidies! We are paid the subs to keep/manage the countryside etc in a tidy presentable state! Stop the subs and stuff and things like cutting hedges, maintenance etc will stop! Then well see who the people complaining will be a bet you its the people twining about the subsidies in the first spot!

Posted by De on 6 August 2012 at 23:22

The EU farming subsidy system, originally designed to prevent large fluctuations in the price of basic foodstuffs but subsequently hijacked by politically powerful European farmers to guarantee prices above the long-term market equilibrium, has long since outlived its usefulness. The time has come to remove subsidies completely. After all, how many other industries expect subsidies as a basic right? Over-production, of course, helped by surging yields, hasn't done them any favours, but it's not as if this is news. As Shakespeare wrote several centuries ago: "Here's a farmer who hang'd himself on the expectation of plenty". No, let's scrap the subsidies and give farmers the ability to take responsibility for their own destiny. Forming supplier cooperatives to counteract the concentrated power of the supermarkets is an obvious start.

Posted by Letterwright on 30 July 2012 at 13:47

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