British farmers should be paid a fair wage for their produce, Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York has said.
He noted that supermarkets were not valuing the contribution the agricultural sector makes to national life.
Dr. Sentamu said British consumers, aided and abetted by supermarkets, were paying too little for their food and claimed that cheap imports are making it difficult for the country’s farmers to earn a decent living.
The Archbishop, an impassioned advocate of British farming, said he regularly visited farms and found he was often being told the same thing – that prices are too low.
He also maintained that Britain’s uplands communities, such as the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, would fall into ruin without the presence of farmers. But he said upland farmers were often the most economically disadvantaged.
Dr. Sentamu said: “As consumers, we have got to be prepared to pay a fairer price for what we are getting. I know everyone is feeling the pinch in their pocket during this long recession, but really how can we expect to pay less for our milk than say a bottle of mineral water or cola? How can we expect farmers to go on producing the best produce in the world – tasty and nutritional home grown produce – when we are paying them below the going rate for their labours? We should be concerned about food security: Fairer prices should be the bench mark of our concern.”
He urged the supermarkets to pay farmers the right price, particularly when it comes to milk.
“I would love to see a Fairtrade mark for British goods. Cheap foreign imports are flooding the market and British farmers are not getting a fair deal. We should demand fairness not just for workers overseas, but also at home too. Why not buy British farm produce and take less in imports? It would be encouraging to look at the shelves of our supermarkets and know that the producer has been paid a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” Dr Sentamu said.