Farmers warn food security ‘really under threat’ amid supermarket protest

Farmers in Kent stationed their tractors in a supermarket car park to protest against cheap imports and “win over” the British public.

Around 20 tractors parked at Tesco Extra in Whitfield, near Dover, to raise awareness of the threat to food security in the UK, because of the “unfair” treatment of British farmers.

Speaking to ahead of the protest on Saturday, livestock and potato farmer Jeff Gibson said the single message within their concerns is sustainability.

Farmer protests in Dover
Farmers protested against cheap meat imports outside Tesco Extra in Whitfield, near Dover (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“The biggest problem we’re going to face as an industry and the British public in future years is, what happens in the next crisis, what happens in the next Covid, what happens in the next Ukraine war?

“We need to make people realise that food security in this country is really under threat.

“If nothing is done, if the Government trade deals go through, we’re going to have points in the future … when the UK’s supermarket shelves are empty and they’re going to be empty for a long time.”

Farmers taking part in the protest hope to speak to members of the public about the issues in the supermarket car park, after being granted permission from Tesco to set up their protest there.

Mr Gibson added that the police were aware of the protest and that he believed the general public will “rally behind farmers”.

“We’re going to do this peacefully and we’re going to exercise our right to peaceful protest.”

Mr Gibson said farmers have to make a real effort to win over the British public to show them how “unfair the current system is”.

He said it is unfair because foreign imports are cheaper because of the way and standards under which they are produced.

Mr Gibson said: “We do everything we can as an industry to produce the highest standards of food and welfare in the world, and we feel that’s being eroded away by terrible Brexit deals, a complete and utter lack of empathy from the UK Government and the supermarkets for the way they treat British farmers.”

Farmer protests
Farmers using their vehicles to protest against cheap meat imports drive past the Port of Dover in Kent (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The protest comes as farmers across Europe have been demonstrating against European Union farming policies on concerns such as unfair competition and cost hikes.

In Poland, access roads to border crossings with Ukraine were blocked by tractors, while in several Spanish cities protests continued overnight with 20 people arrested during last week’s protests.

Protests have also taken place in other EU member nations including France and Italy.

A  Kent Police spokeswoman said: “Kent Police was made aware of a planned protest in Whitfield, Dover, on Saturday February 17. Officers monitored the situation and provided a proportionate police response.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been contacted for comment.

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