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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Shoppers wooed to farmers markets
NFU farmers market held at central London headquarters
NFU farmers market held at central London headquarters
Consumers are being hit with huge mark-ups on farm produce, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU).

In some cases, consumers pay 80% more for farm goods in the shops than they would if they bought from farms direct.

The NFU has launched its 'Farming Counts' campaign to alert UK consumers to the price differences.

They also wish to pressure the government and supermarkets for a better deal for farmers.

At market

To launch the campaign the NFU held a farmers market at its London HQ, charging members of the public farm gate prices for produce as opposed to those they would pay in shops.

Old lady at farmers market
Elizabeth Caruthers 'staggered'

Some of the price differences were startling according to NFU president Ben Gill.

"On average farm gate prices are a quarter of those charged in shops."

A kilogram of onions rockets in price from the farm gate to the shops from 17p to 73p.

Likewise, a farmer only receives 32p for a dozen eggs which then sell on average for 1.51 in supermarkets.
Difference in prices between farm and supermarket
Bacon (back) 0.96 farm 6.97 retail
Carrots 0.16 farm 0.58 retail
Strawberries 2.21 farm 4.26 retail
Beef (topside) 1.72 farm 6.58 retail
Pork (loin) 0.95 farm 4.78 retail
Figures from the National Farmers Union

Elizabeth Caruthers, a central London pensioner who shopped at the NFU campaign stall, said she was staggered at the difference in prices between farm gate and supermarket.

"It's outrageous, I never knew how little the farmers were getting for their produce. In future, I will try to go to farmers markets and avoid the supermarkets."

Half measure

Last March, the government launched a code of practice to combat large supermarket chains taking too large a mark-up on farm produce.

Mr Gill is critical of the supermarket code in its current form as it only covers a limited range of products.

National Farmers Union President Ben Gill in an apron at farmers market
Ben Gill NFU president

At present, key products such as milk, bread and meat are not covered by the code.

"The code is a half-measure and is too open to interpretation. As it stands it is impracticable," Mr Gill told BBC News Online.

Mr Gill said the low prices paid to farmers by supermarkets and food processing companies were killing British farming.

"At present we are losing 400 jobs a day and the average farmer has to survive on less than the national Minimum Wage."

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