A survey by the Council for the Protection of Rural England has found that supermarkets are failing to support the countryside and the rural economy.

This year’s late and exceptionally cold spring, and last year’s wet and erratic seasons, means times continue to be tough for our farmers. That’s why CPRE asked its supporters to contact the biggest food retailers: Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, M&S, The Co-operative and Waitrose, to ask how they are supporting the farmers, local food producers, and the management of the countryside.

CPRE supporters sent over 7,000 emails to the chief executives of the major supermarkets and we’ve analysed the responses that they received. We found some interesting initiatives, [1] but CPRE believes all the major supermarkets could do a lot better.

Ian Woodhurst, Senior Food and Farming Campaigner at CPRE, said: ‘Supermarkets dominate the grocery sector and our food chain [2]. Given this, they need to use their immense market power to support the nation’s farmers, the countryside they manage, and boost sales of local food.’

CPRE is calling on supermarkets to:
•         Pay farmers a fair price for their produce – by taking into account fluctuations in the cost of fertiliser, diesel and animal feed into supermarket pricing formulas
•         Stock and promote more ‘countryside friendly’ food such as produce from LEAF farmers, ‘Woodland Eggs’ or ‘Conservation Grade’ cereals, to help to manage landscape features and wildlife habitats
•         Shorten supply chains by setting challenging targets for stocking local food - CPRE would like to see at least 10% of sales in a supermarket come from the local area (defined as from within 30 miles)
Ian continued: 'The horsemeat scandal has shown what can happen to the food chain if there is a race to the bottom on price. The same lessons need to be learnt to secure a fair future for farming and the countryside, as well as to boost local food economies.

'The 'Big 7' need to take a more joined-up approach to farming, local food, and our countryside so that consumers can buy high quality food, knowing that the farmer has been paid a fair price while maintaining the beauty of the English countryside.'

Ian Woodhurst concluded:

'CPRE will continue to lobby supermarkets to increase their support for English farming and the management of countryside, and stand up for the producers, processors, suppliers and retailers of local food.'