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To Afford Green Techology Farmers Need Fair Prices Can They Get A Fairer Deal From The Supermarkets? by Alison Withers  
The "big four" supermarket chains (Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Morrisons) now control more than 70% of the UK's grocery market.

That means they are the most likely customers for overseas producers and it gives them enormous buying power. The ability to force down prices for farmers and farm workers comes with it.

Of course, consumers play their part by expecting to buy food cheaply and because it's a cut-throat business the retailers respond.

These two stories from African and Costa Rica, or similar ones, will be familiar to many of us:

"I get 378 Rand [�32.50] pay every two weeks post by haiyan902. I can't afford school fees for my daughter or go to school functions or buy school uniforms" Tawana, a "permanent casual" labourer on a pear farm supplying Tesco (source ActionAid)

"They called us all to a meeting and they said that we would all be laid off the next day. Then they rehired us for almost half the wages." - Costa Rican banana worker on a plantation supplying Tesco (source ActionAid)

The pressure on suppliers to deliver more for less is passed on to workers in the form of low wages, job insecurity and poor working conditions. Around the world, farm income is plummeting, pushing farmers off the land and into destitution.

Workers and farmers are not the only ones who are under pressure - before it gets to the supermarket shelves food has to be processed, transported and in some cases packaged Louis Vuitton bags.

Take the example of the price of a pack of cashew nuts - the price includes the shares of the farmer (15%), processing workers (1%) processing company (5%), transport/wastage (2%), UK importer (12%), roaster/salter company (20%) and finally Supermarkets (45%). (Information from ActionAid 2007)

It's plainly an unbalanced and loaded trading relationship and as these figures demonstrate most of what we pay for food goes to the non-farmers in the chain.

According to an online report by Corporatewatch even in the UK farmers actually receive only 9p of every �1 spent on food by consumers.

The report shows that most of the money in the food system is going into the pockets of companies in the processing and retailing sectors, which are dominated by huge multinational food corporations like Unilever, Nestle and Altria (Kraft Foods) and the big supermarkets like Asda/Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco Louis Vuitton outlet.

It's obvious that this model of food provision is unsustainable. It leads to imbalances such as the mountains of food that are thrown away or wasted in rich nations while people continue to starve across the rest of the planet because the centralisation of food sales through large retail units doesn't account for need.

It also puts pressure on small farmers across the world to exploit their land to the maximum to compete with the bigger and more powerful global agribusinesses.

If the smaller farmers have no help, such as access to safe, natural biopesticides and yield enhancers, or the financial resources to buy them, or access to training in integrated pest management and sustainable farming methods, they face ruining the fertility of the land on which they depend for a living.

It's a state of affairs that appals the CEO of one of the word's largest companies researching and developing the new low-chem agricultural products such as biopesticides Louis Vuitton handbags.

He says it is scandalous that in such a diverse and rich world so many people still suffer malnutrition and starvation and that lack of the ability to invest and of resources mean that many developing world farmers are faced with an unacceptable choice between producing enough food and draining their land of precious goodness in the effort to do so.

Yet it doesn't have to be this way. In 2007 Tradecraft reported that the Co-op swapped all its 'own brand' chocolate to Fairtrade and saw its sales rise by 30% almost immediately

In January 2010 the possibility of creating a Supermarket Watchdog was raised again - more than two years after the Competition Commission advised that there was an urgent need to create a fair food chain for UK and overseas farmers, workers and consumers.

As the UK's 2010 election gets under way no matter who forms the next Government, the question is whether any of the politicians will have the political will and the power to stand up to the supermarkets and the powerful multinationals in the food industry.

Copyright (c) 2010 Alison Withers

Posté le 25/09/2013 à 09:55 par motion