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Farmers call on consumer support in face of Brexit

New research reveals consumers are more concerned about how Brexit will impact the price and choice of food available than they are about the implications for British farmers.

Only one in four peo­ple said that they were wor­ried that leav­ing the Euro­pean Union might force farm­ers out of busi­ness, where­as 61% were wor­ried about ris­ing food prices and one in three about what EU foods will be avail­able post Brex­it. The major­i­ty of shop­pers also admit they don’t always buy British even when it is available.

LEAF (Link­ing Envi­ron­ment And Farm­ing) sur­veyed shop­pers about their Brex­it fears, ahead of this year’s Open Farm Sun­day on 11th June. The foods that con­sumers were most wor­ried would be hard­er to find post Brex­it were con­ti­nen­tal cheese (21%), soft fruits such as rasp­ber­ries and straw­ber­ries (18%), toma­toes and pep­pers (15%) and choco­late (14%).

The sus­tain­able farm­ing char­i­ty, LEAF, also polled farm­ers about their con­cerns**. Near­ly six in ten farm­ers (59%) claim that with­out the sup­port of con­sumers the British farm­ing sec­tor would find it hard to com­pete with food pro­duced in oth­er nations post Brex­it, and an over­whelm­ing 85% of farm­ers believe the pub­lic need a bet­ter under­stand­ing of British agriculture. 

The results revealed a lack of under­stand­ing about the over­all val­ue of farm­ing. UK agri­cul­ture con­tributes near­ly £47bn to the econ­o­my — more than £7 for every £1 invest­ed*** — yet only 10% of con­sumers recog­nised this sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion. This includes mon­ey earned through coun­try­side recre­ation, with farm­ers man­ag­ing more than 70% of the country’s land­scape. In addi­tion, those sur­veyed believe farm­ers grow just 37% of the food we eat in Britain, when in fact it is actu­al­ly 61%. 

Four in ten farm­ers believe peo­ple should be will­ing to pay more for British foods, how­ev­er near­ly one in five con­sumers (17%) believe that British pro­duce should actu­al­ly be cheap­er than its for­eign coun­ter­parts. Just half of those ques­tioned said they always buy British meat when avail­able, with few­er always buy­ing British cheese (42%), fresh veg­eta­bles and sal­ad (35%) or fresh fruit (28%). Even those will­ing to pay more were only will­ing to spend an extra 11 per­cent on aver­age for British foods. 

Com­ment­ing on the find­ings, LEAF Chief Exec­u­tive, Car­o­line Drum­mond said: It’s essen­tial that as we work towards leav­ing the Euro­pean Union, the pub­lic under­stand and val­ue what farm­ers do for us all. Farm­ers play a vital role – not just in pro­duc­ing the food we eat and car­ing for the coun­try­side but they also con­tribute to so many aspects of all our dai­ly lives – from med­i­cines and cos­met­ics, to fuel and even what we wear, the cars we dri­ve and the build­ings we live and work in. LEAF Open Farm Sun­day is the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak with farm­ers and hear at first-hand about what hap­pens beyond the farm gate – and why they need our support.” 

For farm­ers, their biggest con­cerns are pay­ments from gov­ern­ment decreas­ing (76%), busi­ness costs increas­ing (60%) and an increase in imports from non-EU nations (51%). Less than one in five (18%) farm­ers believe Brex­it will be good for British farm­ing, with near­ly half (47%) feel­ing they will be worse off after­wards. Three quar­ters of farm­ers (78%) feel they them­selves should be doing more to pro­mote the farm­ing indus­try to the pub­lic. LEAF Open Farm Sun­day on 11th June will see hun­dreds of them doing just that by open­ing their gates so peo­ple can see mod­ern farm­ing at first hand.

Click here to view the full press release.

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