UK farmers are gearing up for more protests reminiscent of French-style blockades following a recent slow tractor protest at Dover.
The demonstration was aimed at highlighting concerns over low supermarket prices and the influx of cheap food imports resulting from post-Brexit trade deals.
Approximately 40 tractors and other farm vehicles caused disruptions around the Kent port for several hours by driving slowly and displaying signs with slogans such as “No More Cheap Imports”.
Kent farmers are set to convene again this week to discuss potential further action, with the possibility of other campaigns joining in fueled by widespread discontent among farmers.
Last October, farmers in Somerset attempted to blockade a Morrisons distribution centre in Bridgwater under the banner “Proud to Farm”. Additionally, about 3,000 farmers gathered in Carmarthen, Wales, last week to protest, with some even carrying a mock coffin inscribed with “In memory of Welsh farming”.
Several campaigns with similar themes have emerged, including Get Fair About Farming, initiated last year by Guy Singh-Watson, the founder of organic vegetable-box company Riverford. A petition associated with the campaign was debated in parliament last month.
Andrew Gibson, one of the organizers of the Dover protest alongside his brother Jeff, expressed the widespread support they’ve received and hinted at potential future actions targeting docks and supermarket distribution centres nationwide.
Inspired by French counterparts who successfully blocked motorways into Paris, the Kent farmers aspire to escalate their protests further, although they acknowledge challenges in accessing London.
The trigger for the recent protest includes concerns over tariff-free wheat from Ukraine and cheap lamb from New Zealand flooding the market, exacerbating the challenges faced by UK farmers. Brexit-related complexities in exporting goods and perceived lack of change in importing procedures have compounded the issue.
Sustain, a food campaign group, previously highlighted the meager profits UK farmers make from their produce. Since then, trade deals with Australia and New Zealand have come into effect, intensifying worries among farmers.
Andrew Gibson expressed dismay over the availability of British lamb in supermarkets, citing the importation of produce from distant locations and ethical concerns regarding standards.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), emphasized the strain on farmers due to high production costs and climate-related crop losses, acknowledging the significance of public support.
A government spokesperson underscored the importance of British farming in trade and outlined ongoing efforts to support farmers financially and environmentally while addressing fairness in the supply chain and promoting British products’ accessibility to consumers.