Waitrose adds ‘Best of British’ section to website amid farmers’ protests

Farmers drive tractors around Parliament Square during a demonstration organised by Save British Farming
Farmers drive tractors around Parliament Square during a demonstration organised by Save British Farming - HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images

Waitrose is one of the latest supermarkets to add buy British sections to its website, amid protests from farmers over the impact of cheap imports.

The supermarket chain, along with Co-op, will include a Best of British tab in their online shops, following a campaign from MPs to back farmers in the UK.

Morrisons became the first supermarket to respond to the call from Conservative MP Dr Luke Evans, backed by 125 cross-party MPs.

The move from Waitrose and Co-Op was welcomed by the National Farmers Union, which said that its research showed that the public wants to buy more British food from retailers.

Dozens of farmers descended on Westminster on Monday, to protest against what they say are unfair trade deals that leave them undercut by cheaper imports and threaten food security.

Liz Webster, founder of campaign group Save British Farming, said the industry in the UK was blamed for its environmental impact despite having a lower carbon footprint than the global average in agriculture.

“If the world farmed as we did we would be well on our way to achieving our net zero targets,” she said.

Long-term threat to food production

She warned that trade deals could put pressure on the UK to reduce its environmental standards to a lower baseline, and said she expected to see more protests from farmers.

On Monday, the environment department announced it would cap the amount of land that could be removed from food production under its new subsidy system, the Sustainable Farming Incentive.

Under the changes, landowners will not be able to take more than 25 per cent of their land out of food production under the majority of schemes within the SFI.

It came after Defra’s analysis found that around 1 per cent of last year’s applicants to the SFI had entered more than 80 per cent of their land into schemes that could take it out of food production.

The NFU has called for more support for farmers, but Tom Bradshaw, the union’s president, warned that “disruptive protests should always be a last resort”.

He said consecutive years of high production costs, changes to agriculture policy and farm support and crop losses because of extreme weather posed a long-term threat to food production.

“The potential impact from trade deals is another concern and the NFU has been continually making the case that our Government mustn’t agree to trade deals that allow imported food produced to standards that would be illegal here,” he said.

“In recent weeks, we have written to all the main political parties calling on them to make a manifesto commitment to the formation of a core standards commission.

“This would look at the practicalities and legal requirements to ensure imported food meets the same production standards as those adhered to by UK farmers.”

Adele Balmforth, Co-op’s propositions director, said the supermarket’s Best of British page “will make it easier for customers to buy British and support local livelihoods”.

A Waitrose spokesperson said: “We have recently added a Best of British section to Waitrose.com. It includes some of our products which are 100 per cent British all year round, such as fresh eggs, meat and milk. If it is a success with our customers we will consider expanding on it.”