Axe Valley farmers struggle to make living

AXE Valley farmers have welcomed plans for a supermarket ombudsman - but fear many could be put out of business

AXE Valley farmers have welcomed plans for a supermarket ombudsman - but fear many could be put out of business before it becomes a reality.

The Tories announced at the Oxford Farming Conference yesterday (Tuesday, January 5) they want to protect the interests of farmers against any abuse of power by large food retailers.

The ombudsman would settle disputes between retailers and suppliers.

But Yarcombe farmer Sally Dare, from Riverside Feeds, says the issue should be addressed immediately, as farmers are already struggling to make a living.

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She said: "Supermarkets have too much power and they dictate everything they want and they get it.

"I pushed for an ombudsman four years ago. We need something to protect farmers from supermarkets, which are getting bigger and bigger.

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"We would welcome such a move. Supermarkets are using their power to push what we are paid down, whilst increasing their charges."

However, she fears such an ombudsman may never be enforced - or at least not for many years.

"We need help now," she said. "Some farmers won't be able to carry on and could be put out of business."

Mark Rowe, chairman of the Axminster Young Farmers, agreed that farmers livelihoods were threatened in the current climate.

He said: "If the prices went up we would be encouraged to produce more. At the moment we are struggling to make a profit and are just about breaking even - or sometimes making a loss."

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has also called for farmers to reduce its environmental impact.

He said methane produced by ruminant livestock accounts for four per cent of the UK's total carbon emissions.

However, Mrs Dare believes shopping locally, rather than importing cheap goods from abroad, would lower the carbon footprint.

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