Prince Charles: Supermarkets give squeezed farmers a raw deal

They take all the profit and accept none of the risk, says heir to the throne in editorial for Country Life magazine

Prince Charles has accused the big supermarkets and their shareholders of profiting from Britain’s farmers while taking on “none of the risk” of dealing with the roller-coaster economics of food production.

In his latest forthright intervention on issues of public debate from architecture to homeopathy, the heir to the throne has highlighted the iniquities faced by farmers who deal with dramatically fluctuating incomes while retailers reap substantial profits from their squeezed suppliers.

The Prince, who has previously been outspoken on threats to the countryside and is himself a substantial landowner through the Duchy of Cornwall, takes up the cudgels against the supermarkets in an edition of Country Life magazine which he guest-edited.

His lengthy editorial defends the work of farmers as guardians of rural Britain and argues that plummeting incomes are depriving farmers of the ability to invest long-term in their land, thereby storing up problems for sustainable domestic food production.

He said producers were, in effect, being “penalised” for choosing their way of life, adding: “Small farmers find themselves in the iniquitous position of taking the biggest risk, often acting as the buffer from the retailer against all the economic uncertainties of producing food, but receiving the least return.

“It cannot be right that a typical hill farmer earns just £12,600, with some surviving on as little as £8,000 a year, whilst the big retailers and their shareholders do so much better out of the deal, having taken none of the risk.”

Among the most adept agricultural managers is the Prince himself. The Duchy of Cornwall last year increased the income from its farm holdings from £7m to £7.3m as part of an overall surplus of £19.1m paid to him to fund his lifestyle and that of dependents, including his sons.

But the Prince’s criticism is supported by Government figures which show that total income from farming fell by 14 per cent last year to £4.7bn, while average income per farm dropped by 29 per cent to £47,500. The profits of the big six supermarkets over the same period rose to £7.6bn, according to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE).

Emergency payments by the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution have also increased dramatically, with three times as many working farmers (nearly 300) approaching the charity for financial support in the first nine months of 2013, compared with the same period last year.

The profit margins of the supermarkets are not the only targets for royal ire. In comments likely to be seen as a shot across the bows of Coalition proposals which critics say imperil areas such as national parks, the Prince describes the countryside as “the unacknowledged backbone of our national identity”. He says: “It is as precious as any of our great cathedrals, and we erode it at our peril.”

Complaints from farmers that they are pressured into reducing their margins beyond sustainable levels are a running sore between retailers and producers.

Campaigners claim supermarkets’ growth has impacted on farmers both by virtue of their huge direct buying power and their competitive advantage over smaller or independent retailers in rural areas.

Graeme Willis, policy adviser for the CPRE, said: “We have lost a lot of the traditional stores that should be the first port of call as outlets for smaller farms. There is a very strong argument for the supermarkets to deepen their direct links by buying from smaller local producers.”

Farmers have placed significant store in the introduction this summer of a new supermarkets ombudsman – the Groceries Code Adjudicator – who will investigate complaints from suppliers of unfair practice.

The new Groceries Code, which applies to the UK’s 10 biggest supermarkets with a turnover of more than £1bn, includes measures such as a ban on retailers from varying supply contracts without notice.

In response to Prince Charles, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said supermarkets had a record of strong investment in farmers but added that they could not be expected to resolve all the issues faced by the agriculture sector.

Andrew Opie, the BRC’s food director, said: “Retailers are confident their investment means a strong future for farmers in their chain and that a very high proportion of our food will continue to be sourced in the UK. However, retailers cannot resolve all the problems for farmers, many of which are structural and beyond their control.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee