The coalition Government may have its hands full sorting out Britain’s ailing economy, but the women of middle England are more concerned with what is on our plates.
Having turned their attention to the thorny issue of immigration earlier this year, the Townswomen’s Guild are now campaigning about the food we eat.
They have issued a clarion call for shoppers to “buy British” to keep farmers in business.
The call was made by the Townswomen’s Guild (TG) during their AGM at the ICC in Birmingham.
Earlier this year the TG hit the headlines when its members called for more controls on immigration.
Now they are anxious about the food we eat, where it is from and how ethically it is produced. Delegates representing the 37,000 members passed a motion which calls on the Government to do more to make Britain self sufficient and support UK farmers.
They heard how many British farmers were struggling to make a living as the food we eat becomes more global.
Statistics presented to the debate included:
* For every £1 spent on food by shoppers, only about 7p goes to the farmer - compared to 50p in the 1960s.
* More than 20,000 dairy farmers have gone out of business in the last decade.
* The amount of food we import have increased from 20 per cent in the 1980s to 40 per cent today.
* In 1991 the UK was 75 per cent self sufficient for all its food. By 2008 this had dropped to 60 per cent.
But the women heard how it was a difficult balancing act because the livelihoods of food producers in the Third World depended on British supermarkets.
Flying the flag for buying home-grown was speaker Ionwen Lewis, from the National Women’s Food and Farming Union, who said the existence of domestic farmers was at risk.
“Farming is a business not a charity,” she said. “There has to be a change in thinking in the UK to link the concept of ‘fair trade’ not just to the developing world but also to a vibrant and flourishing sector here at home.”
But Adam Gardner, from the Fair Trade Foundation, said consumers should also have a conscience and realise food production was global and poor farmers in the Third World also needed their support.
“Over a million people’s livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa depend on selling fresh fruit and vegetables to the UK.”
TG national chairman, Sue Smith, from Sutton Coldfield, said it was an important issue that members felt strongly about.
“With this mandate we can run local and national campaigns, lobby MPs and supermarkets and help educate the public as to why their choices are important,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it supported UK farmers through the Red Tractor scheme, where British produce is labelled with a Red Tractor logo. “Consumers can be confident about the products they are putting in their shopping baskets when they carry the Red Tractor logo,” she said.