Guy Singh-Watson introduced a Fair to Farmers Charter to Riverford to ensure fair treatment.

Get fair about farming

Farmers cannot keep feeding us if they are denied commitment and security, and are not making a fair, reasonable profit.

Every day, my mother used to cook lunches for family, farm staff and anyone who was passing. It was great food, made from great ingredients – with minimal fuss, no packaging and no supermarkets quadrupling the price in between. As a child, I thought everyone ate like that. Those lunches inspired so much of what I have done at Riverford; like most farmers, I love feeding people and have devoted my working life to doing it well. However, farmers cannot keep feeding us if they are denied commitment and security and are not making a fair, reasonable profit.

During my 50 years of farming, the proportion of the price of food which actually goes to farmers has fallen relentlessly. Instead, ever more goes to supermarkets and food processors. This imbalance of power, combined with climate change and fickle government policy, has brought the farming industry I love to its knees. Almost half (49 per cent) of British fruit and veg farmers fear they will go out of business within the next year. Supermarket behaviour is a leading cause.

We have written an open letter to the CEOs of the ‘big six’ supermarkets, urging them to adopt five key principles from our charter.

The exploitation of many small producers by a few large, powerful retailers, driving the surviving farmers to increasingly environmentally destructive practices, is not an immutable rule of nature. It is a political and social choice – and a better way is possible. Over 20 years, Riverford has developed a Fair to Farmers Charter. Unique in our industry, this humane and honourable document sets out guidelines for both us and our suppliers, ensuring that our relationships are mutually fair and beneficial. An independent ombudsman is in place to settle any disputes. After decades spent building Riverford, our supplier relationships and the diverse businesses they support are what I am most proud of.

We have written an open letter to the CEOs of the ‘big six’ supermarkets, urging them to adopt five key principles from our charter: pay what you agreed to pay, buy what you agreed to buy, agree on fair specifications, commit for the long term and pay on time. Government support is also vital – so we are petitioning for three of these principles (commitments to agreed quantities and prices, and prompt payment) to be made legally binding for all supermarkets, without exception.

If you would like to help us save British family farms, please sign our petition at Thank you.


Leave a Reply

  1. Couldn’t agree more, having seen acres of apples rot on the tree in Suffolk after supermarket rejection.

    Yet I feel powerless beyond buying from Riverford.
    Should we not start to boycott supermarkets who won’t sign up (and once signed up honour the signing)?

    1. So sad to hear that. Riverford haven’t heard back from the supermarkets at all. We’ve heard from many people who do avoid supermarkets, which is great for those that are able too. But we are very aware that they are important and essential for many. We hope that the supermarkets seeing how many consumers hold this as a matter of importance will have an impact on some level.

  2. Corporations only change when there is a threat to ‘their’ profit or reputation. Sentimentality does not exist in their business models. I think the charter is a good idea. Although I’d like to see wording that is quantifiable. Fair is a arbitrary word that they are likely to exploit. Just like they do to farmers, lay down what Fair actually is, and in unquestionable terms.

    What can citizens do to help? Unfortunately I do not think that Boycotting, realistically will work. Too many people rely on supermarkets for many other non food items, petrol and pharmaceuticals, and we all lead busy lives – we are fickle souls right? if a supermarket is near and cheap we’ll use it.

    I think the answer is awareness, use the very same marketing strategies including social media that they use, and raise awareness of the issue. You have to change people’s minds.

    What would I do?
    Build a marketing campaign
    Get some heavy weight ambassadors to be a persistent voice for farmers, celebrities, sportsmen, social media influencers
    Use TV and social media outlets
    And finally, throughout history causes have had symbols, logos that resonate with customers – the Golden Arches, the Apple and the Tick on a pair of trainers, having an identifiable logo will help raise and change awareness of people’s minds – it has to be a campaign that doesn’t stop, and when the supermarkets start to see that their reputation is being marked, change will happen and when it does, you just keep going and never stop!

  3. I had to provide one more comment after reading the article linked below about Helen Rebanks and her mission to provide good food for her family.

    She is the person that I imagine seeing in a marketing campaign as the one force of change that raises awareness about treating farmers fairly.

    She could resonate as a symbol of change, and with all of the people who do the weekly shopping to feed their families. They want what is best for their families right? and that includes good food at a fair price for farmers and customers.

    Maybe this is a solution to the problems you’re facing?


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