THE Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and the Archbishop of Wales,
Dr Barry Morgan, have urged that Fairtrade principles should be
extended to British farmers; and the Farm Crisis Network has asked
churches to designate this Sunday as a day of prayer for farmers in
The moves are made against a background of dairy farmers'
staging lightning blockades of dairies, milk-processing plants, and
transport hubs, in protest at reductions in the farm-gate prices.
Many of them are receiving less per litre of milk than it costs to
One of the largest wholesale milk suppliers in the UK, Robert
Wiseman Dairies, cut the amount it pays farmers by two pence per
litre in June, and has announced a further cut of 1.7p, to take
effect from 1 August. It blames a fall in the worldwide commodity
price for dairy fats.
Farmers say that they are unable to switch to other dairies
because they are locked into contracts that require them to give
six months' notice of termination. Many say that they will be
forced out of business by the time their contracts end.
On Monday, the Government announced that it had negotiated a
code of practice between farmers and dairy processors to make
contracts fairer and easier to cancel. But the agreement has no
effect on the farm-gate price that farmers are paid.
Paul Rowbottom, a dairy farmer and agricultural-feed supplier
from Staffordshire, said: "The morale is awful. I was with a
customer last week who milks 300 cows on a family farm. . . The
lady sits at the kitchen table in tears, devastated at what she is
going to do with her farm. That's how bad it is."
Since the protests began last week, ASDA, Morrisons, the Co-op,
and Aldi announced increases in the amount they pay for milk, but
the industry says that this still leaves many farmers selling milk
for less than the cost of production.
On Wednesday, Dr Sentamu called for a Fairtrade mark for British
produce. "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?
"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."
On Monday, speaking at the Royal Welsh Show, Dr Morgan said: "We
are short-changing our dairy farmers, and that is a matter of
justice and morality. We are all responsible, and we all have to be
prepared now to pay a fair price for a quality product because fair
trade begins at home."
The Fairtrade Foundation, which controls the Fairtrade mark in
the UK, said that it had held trials of a UK mark in a pilot
project with the Soil Association, but had decided to focus on its
core objective, which was to support farmers in the developing
Question of the week:
Would you pay more for your milk in order to benefit British
The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd Donald Allister, has
written a prayer for use on Sunday, the day when churches are
requested to pray for the farming community:
the earth is yours and the harvests are your bounty.
We pray for our arable farmers
in this year of extreme weather.
We pray for our dairy farmers
with supermarkets forcing the price of milk down
and with bovine TB in some parts of the country.
We ask your blessing on the harvest
and on all who work in farming.
We ask that farmers facing difficult times
may know your love
and our support.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.