Farmer lobbies retailers for fairer prices

One of the country's largest vegetable farmers is lobbying the major supermarkets to bring their payments in line with those for growers in Europe.

Geoff Philpott, who runs GG Philpott & Son at Elmwood Farm in Broadstairs, Kent, is taking action after revealing that this year he and other growers have been paid on average just 35p of the £1 market price of their cauliflowers - while growers from abroad are paid more than double this amount.

He said: "The most infuriating thing is when supermarkets will not raise their prices in line with the general market.

"For example, when prices went up in April they had to import French and Spanish cauliflowers for double what they were paying English growers. So why not pay English growers more? The market price was £1 a head - and they were not paying (English) growers more than 35p of that."

He added: "The same thing happened when we got to the end of May. (Retailers) were prepared to pay growers 80-90p a head for German imported - but, again, English growers got just 35p."

He said that supermarkets should have more regard for British produce because of its traceability.

"The traceability of our English product is so good, it's beyond reproach - whereas the traceability of imported products is not. UK supermarkets import cauliflower from 20 different countries - many of which would not have the kind of traceability we have."

Philpott said he wants to see UK growers paid at least 30 per cent more to cover the rising costs of rents, fertiliser, field costs and labour - many of which are also being experienced by Continental growers.

He said: "Our costs are just worrying us beyond measure. I have been growing for 45 years and have seen inflations at 25 per cent - but when that happened it seemed that everything else went up with it. But in those days supermarkets did not rule the roost as they do now."

L The NFU has now met up with senior staff at Asda, Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Morrisons to explain growers' need for greater returns on their produce.

The meetings, led by the NFU's horticultural team, have taken place over the past couple of months to help multiples understand growers' escalating costs.

NFU chief horticultural adviser Phil Hudson told Grower: "We have not got any immediate promises from them - it's about improving their understanding. Our primary objective was to ensure that retailers understood what was happening at ground level with growers."

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