The National Farmers’ Union is expected to challenge major supermarkets over their promise to pay UK farmers and growers a fair price at its annual conference in Birmingham today.
The union’s president, Peter Kendall, will tell delegates that mainstream stores are still not treating farmers fairly, despite pledging not to price them out with competitive cost-cutting.
He said: "It is an encouraging sign that supermarkets are now falling over each other to paint themselves as the greenest or most responsible – but do they really mean it?
"The top-of-the-range smaller volume retailers are treating their suppliers fairly, but I have yet to see their practices becoming mainstream.
"I’ve been hearing the promises but so far I am seeing no delivery."
Mr Kendall will say that today’s supermarket prices are not sustainable, and that bosses must understand that businesses need to be able to make a profit in order to supply and must be allowed to prosper.
"That’s not just corporate social responsibility, it is common sense," he said.
The two-day conference, which is taking place at the Hilton Metropole Hotel in Birmingham today and tomorrow, will be attended by a range of agricultural, environmental and consumer bodies and Government Ministers.
David Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs will speak at the event, along with European Union commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, and Sainsbury’s group chief executive Justin King. Another issue that will be discussed is how the agricultural industry can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr Kendall will highlight environmental work done so far and look at how farmers can make a difference to climate change by producing bioenergy.
An online spot-check by a food industry trade magazine has found major supermarkets have failed to live up to their green credentials by cutting the number of plastic bags they used.
The stores’ online ordering services packed an average of three items per bag, with the worst offender, Asda, using 13 bags for 29 items.
The Grocer survey is a quarterly test of the online shopping services, with five shoppers asked to order the same 33 items from Asda.com, Tesco.com, Sainsburys.co.uk, WaitroseDeliver and its partner delivery organisation Ocado. A spokesman for the magazine said: "There’s a lot of good intentions from the supermarkets to reduce plastic bag consumption, but this shows there are still some areas they have to look at. Home delivery appears to be a tough nut that they’re failing to crack."