'No food, no future!' Furious British farmers stage protest as anger mounts

'No food, no future!' Furious British farmers stage protest as anger mounts

Farmers could be seen rolling into Canterbury in convoy as demonstrations began

James Saunders

By James Saunders

Published: 04/03/2024

- 14:58

Organiser Richard Ash pushed for supermarkets and the government to ‘look after our own’

Hundreds of farmers took to the streets in Canterbury in protest yesterday in what marks the latest instance in a string of demonstrations across Europe.

The convoy of tractors and farm vehicles carrying some 200 protesting farmers made for dramatic scenes as it progressed through the city on Sunday.

Farmers were protesting against foreign imports, as well as over low supermarket retail prices for British-grown food – both, they said, were undercutting domestic production.

The vehicles – sporting “buy British” slogans, bunting and union flags – were applauded by onlookers as they drove past.

Tractors with slogans, flags and convoy

Protesting farmers in Canterbury staged 'go-slow' protests throughout the city in response to foreign food imports


Richard Ash, who organised the protest, said: “It doesn't make sense to us to bus produce with high carbon footprint from all over the world to this country and then not to support and look after our own farming industry.”

One bystander said: “I'm here to back British food and British farming, and to ensure that the government know all the supermarkets that are selling imports from Spain should be fighting to support these guys who are having a pretty rough time.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) expressed their support for British farmers, while the British Retail Consortium (BRC) defended shops’ efforts to curtail food price inflation.

A Defra statement said: “We firmly back our farmers.


Tractors with slogans

Decked-out tractors travelled in convoy through the ancient city centre


“British farming is at the heart of British trade, and we put agriculture at the forefront of any deals we negotiate, prioritising new export opportunities, protecting UK food standards and removing market access barriers.

“We’ve maintained the £2.4billion annual farming budget which supports farmers to produce food profitably and sustainably and are also looking at ways to further improve fairness in the supply chain and support British farmers and growers, as well as ensuring customers have access to high-quality fresh British products.”

The BRC’s director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie, said: “Food retailers source, and will continue to source, the vast majority of their food from the UK and know they need to pay a sustainable price to farmers.

“Given the pressure on British farmers at the moment, retailers are paying more for their produce.
Farmers protest in Brussels

Farmers have already protested in Brussels over EU regulations this year


“However, retailers are also facing additional costs and are working incredibly hard to bring down food price inflation at a time when many households are struggling to afford the essentials.”

It’s not the first farmers’ protest in the county – in February, tractors took to Dover in another ‘go-slow’ protest on one of the main roads to the port.

Elsewhere in the UK, thousands of Welsh farmers staged demonstrations throughout Welshpool and Carmarthen, threating “huge unrest” in response to a Welsh Government sustainability scheme.

Protests have also taken hold across the continent – in February, police in Brussels turned a water cannon on protestors after farmers lit bonfires of tyres outside the European Parliament.

The demonstrations in Belgium were, like in Canterbury, about supermarket prices – as well as stringent EU environmental and trade regulations.

Farmers have also taken to the streets in Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain, staging similar ‘go-slow’ tactics to cause disruption – with the EU beginning to budge on farming-specific climate rules.

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