News Sustainable Farming Campaign

Half of UK fruit and veg farmers fear closure due to supermarket buying behaviour

New research reveals the extent of the crisis, as over 100 Leading figures back campaign to #GetFairAboutFarming and launch petition calling on the government to intervene.

Get Fair About Farming. Copyright:  Stu Everitt - Riverford

Get Fair About Farming. Copyright: Stu Everitt - Riverford

Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden, chef Rick Stein and wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham are among a host of names supporting a campaign urging supermarkets to give a fairer deal to the UK’s struggling farmers.

It comes as half (49%) of British fruit and vegetable farmers say it's likely they will go out of business in the next 12 months, and many blame supermarkets and their buyers as a leading threat to their livelihoods, according to new research by organic veg box company, Riverford.

Supermarkets and their buyers are accused of not paying on time, pursuing cheaper food alternatives from overseas, and cancelling or changing orders at the last minute, with farmers also criticising fruit and veg specifications for being too hard and complex. Three quarters (75%) surveyed say the behaviour of supermarkets is a leading concern within the industry. According to the research, one in five farmers (22%) say they have suffered a wasted crop due to cancelled orders from supermarkets, 29% have also received a cancelled order from supermarkets with no explanation and just under a third (29%) have seen supermarkets failing to pay them within 30 days. However, 70% of farmers surveyed agreed it would have a positive impact if buyers paid the amount initially agreed, and did not then slash prices after the initial agreement. A further 64% agreed it would have a positive impact if buyers bought everything they committed to buy.


Pembrokeshire potato farmer Tessa Elliott, said:

“It’s scary because we have to ask ourselves ‘what is it all for then’? Why are we putting in all these hours and doing what we love - ultimately to grow a premium potato to put on people’s plates all year round - if we can't afford to feed ourselves?”

Kath Dalmeny CEO of Sustain the alliance for better food and farming said:

“Farmers and food suppliers need far better protection from unfair and sometimes abusive practices by the big supermarkets. Retailers make unreasonable demands, create waste and keep too much of the value. Our own research shows that farmers and growers typically get less than a penny of the profit on packs of everyday foods. Many are thinking of leaving farming because it is such hard work for so little financial return, just when we need to increase production and consumption of sustainable fruit and veg. Government must step in and strengthen the rules so that more and better fruit and veg is available and affordable for all.”

An open letter addressed to the CEOs of the nation’s ‘Big Six’ supermarkets - Ken Murphy (Tesco), Simon Roberts (Sainsbury’s), Stuart Rose (Asda), David Potts (Morrisons), Giles Hurley (Aldi), and Ryan McDonnell (Lidl) is now calling for supermarkets to treat farmers more fairly, signed by over 100 leading figures. Industry bodies like Sustain and The Soil Association have backed the call to action, while other notable signatures include entrepreneur Deborah Meaden, conservationist Ray Mears, JLS singer and farmer JB Gill,
Mumford and Sons singer and farmer Marcus Mumford, TV presenters Chris Packham, Julia Bradbury and Jimmy Doherty, of Jimmy's Farm, and chefs Rick Stein, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Melissa Hemsley.

The letter is part of a new #GetFairAboutFarming campaign, launched by Riverford, calling for supermarkets to adopt better business practices to safeguard the future of British fruit and veg farming, starting with committing to Riverford’s Fair to Farmers charter principles of;

  • Pay what you agreed to pay.
  • Buy what you committed to buy
  • Agree on fair specifications
  • Commit for the long term
  • Pay on time

Riverford has launched a petition calling on the government to intervene and protect Britain’s broken food system from further collapse. People can show their support for farmers by signing the petition.

Published Monday 18 September 2023

Sustainable Farming Campaign: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

Latest related news

Featured in the press

The Times

Farmers’ plea as supermarkets leave them ‘on their knees’

Kath Dalmeny, CEO of Sustain comments.

Tuesday 19 September 2023 | Visit

Support our campaign

Your donation will help us work with farmers to push for policies to support farming fit for our future.


The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA

020 3559 6777

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

© Sustain 2024
Registered charity (no. 1018643)
Data privacy & cookies