Stop treating us like slaves

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A COLERAINE farmer and farming rights’ activist has called on the big local supermarkets to stop treating farmers as “slaves” and pay them “a fair price” for their produce.

Sean McAuley, a steering committee member for the Northern Ireland Farmers For Action group, claims Coleraine farmers are amongst thousands across the Province who are not even paid cost price for their beef and milk.

And despite “misleading headlines” to the contrary, he shockingly revealed that lamb and grain were the only two locally produced commodities with enough profit to stop farms going under.

The Macosquin based farmer made the startling revelations in a hard-hitting report produced this week to garner support for MP Tim Farron’s Early Day Motion 1602 presented to Westminster.

In the motion, the concerned MP called for the House to condemn the exploitation of farmers and producers across the world by companies who pay below cost for goods; to celebrate the success of the Fair-trade in promoting ethical purchasing and trade justice; and to call for the establishment of a domestic fair trade classification to protect UK farmers from exploitation by large corporations such as supermarkets.

Mr. McAuley claims the only reason lamb and grain are still profitable for local farmers is down to supply and demand.

“The world market is short of these commodities,” he said, “thereby creating an overall market large enough to be outside the armlock of the EU’s large supermarkets, large food retailers and wholesalers.”

Citing examples, he went on to say: “European beef self-efficiency was indeed short by approximately 4% while the world beef markets were buoyant, yet the small beef shortage within the EU was not enough to break the armlock of the corporates into paying directly or indirectly Northern Ireland farmers the cost of production plus a margin.

“As a result the farm gate price of beef would need to rise by approximately 50% to reach an estimated cost of production, heading towards £5 per kg.

“Indeed the farm gate price of milk only rises occasionally to the cost of production when world markets peak, otherwise dairy farmers, a notoriously high-borrowed sector, need on average an increase of 45% just to reach the cost of production, heading towards 40p/l.”

Mr McAuley called for political resolve to deal with the issue of fairness for local farmers many of whom are in financial hardship.

“The European Union boasts a free market, it is in fact by-and-large a corporate controlled market from a farmers point of view,” he said.

“Politicians should realise that action needs to be taken in the form of Fairness for Farmers in Europe’s revolutionary Common Agriculture Policy Post 2013 (CAP) proposal. It saves the CAP budget billions by abolishing lowland subsidies and it advocates EU legislation to force the corporates to pay farm gate prices for staple commodities, equating to the cost of production plus an inflation linked margin.”