Embrace the ethical consumer says Cameron

Tory leader David Cameron told farmers they should not scoff at the rise of the ethical consumer revolution.

Tory leader David Cameron has told farmers they should not scoff at the rise of the ethical consumer revolution but should instead see the opportunities and benefits offered by such a sea change.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, he said: "The more British shoppers learn about the difference in the quality of a pig produced here compared to almost anywhere else in the world the better for British farmers." And he added that it was not just the treatment of animals that troubles consumers. "People are increasingly uneasy about some of the antibiotics used in agriculture - especially abroad and that's why we're witnessing the growth in the organic market."

Globalisation and a desire to help local communities had helped the rise of farmers' markets and as a result "we need to build value instead of volume," he said. Planning laws as a result should be made easier to establish farm shops and farmer's markets.

He also insisted that growing food locally would be in the interests of national security. "In this dangerous world, where we cannot afford to dismiss the importance of energy security, we cannot afford to dismiss the importance of food security."

At the same time Cameron accused the Labour government of rank inefficiency and supermarkets for squeezing the suppliers. He said the Labour government has not been as understanding or as helpful as farmers deserve. Pointing to the saga of the Rural Payments Agency and late payments he added that the Tory government would be different and make a difference for farming.

The Tory leader also said it was unacceptable that supermarkets were making billions by forcing farmers to cut their prices. He blamed them for leaving farmers out of pocket by 'retrospective discounting' where stores pay the supplier for goods, then later ask for some of the money back when they reduce the instore price.

Farmers even complained that they were being forced to supply cheap labour to stores to stack shelves, Cameron said. "These sorts of practices are completely acceptable."