Farmers hold tractor protest in London against ‘threat to food security’

Farmers say imports put food security and the nation’s health at risk

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Up to 100 tractors and other farm vehicles have converged on London's Westminster as farmers protest against “substandard imports and dishonest labelling”, which they say are threatening food security.

The "go-slow" convoy organised by the campaign groups Save British Farming and Fairness for Farmers of Kent is driving around Westminster.

Farmers have organised the protest over their concerns about the increasing difficulties faced by the British farming industry .

They are calling for an end to trade deals that they say are allowing imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal in the UK and are undercutting British farmers.

Organisers also criticise labelling that allows products to bear a Union flag when they have not been grown or reared in Britain.

Wiltshire beef and arable farmer and Save British Farming founder Liz Webster said the situation put food security and the nation’s health at risk.

Trade deals with New Zealand, Australia, and the CPTPP deal with 11 countries including Canada, Japan and Mexico, along with a lack of import checks, were allowing lower-standard foods into the country, Ms Webster said.

British producers had also lost the level playing field with EU farmers and within the UK, she said.

Ms Webster said European farmers were still receiving subsidies, had freedom of movement for labour, and had continued access to British markets, enabling them to undercut farmers in the UK.

She said the current situation was “like going out with the English football team to the World Cup and saying ‘off you go, you’ve got chains on your legs and chains on your hands’.

"We are completely and utterly disadvantaged."

At the same time, the new English agricultural policy of paying farmers for environmental measures such as habitat creation was taking land out of food production, Ms Webster said.

“In 2019, this government was elected with a mandate to uphold our standards and deliver a ready-made deal with the EU which would see British agriculture boom," she said.

“It is now entirely obvious that they have totally betrayed us all.

“Polling shows that the public back British farming and food, and want to maintain our high food standards and support local producers.

“We need a radical change of policy and an urgent exit from these appalling trade deals which will decimate British food.”

Ms Webster criticised the government for changing its trade and agricultural policies, and then not monitoring food security closely enough.

She said the UK could have to compete with other countries for supplies.

And Ms Webster called for alignment with European regulations to support British farmers.

“It’s so important that our message about substandard imports, dishonest labelling and concerns for food security is heard," said Jeff Gibson, founder of Kent Fairness for Farmers.

“With an election looming, we want to ensure the next incoming government takes up our cause.”

Geoffrey Philpott, a cauliflower farmer in east Kent, who took three tractors to the rally, said: “I hope to be farming for many years to come, but if things don’t change, I won’t be and I won’t be employing the 14 people who work for me.

“Then we will be reliant on foreign produce that will not have the high standard of UK production.

“Once that happens, we could be held to ransom over supply and pricing.”

Updated: March 25, 2024, 10:44 PM