Prince's farm price talks
By Robert Uhlig, Farming Correspondent
The Prince of Wales last night called the heads of the major supermarkets to a meeting at Highgrove for talks on their treatment of farmers.
Furious at the plummeting prices farmers are paid by supermarkets making ever-increasing profits, the Prince was expected to castigate the executives for exploiting farmers and for not sufficiently promoting local foods.
Prince Charles, who runs a 1,800-acre organic farm, was said to be so incensed by supermarkets' "bullying" of farmers that he insisted the wives of each chief executive attend the dinner so they could hear farmers' complaints first hand.
Among the guests were Sir Terry Leahy, Sir Peter Davis and Tony DeNunzio, the heads of Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda. Senior executives from Marks & Spencer and Dalepak, a meat processing firm, were also invited.
Despite a new code of conduct that was meant to prevent supermarkets using their domination of grocery retailing to drive down prices, there is little sign of a let-up for farmers, who are forced to sell their produce often for less than the cost of production or face being blacklisted.
The Prince's move came as Government figures showed that the foot and mouth crisis led to the largest exodus of farmers since the Second World War.
The Agricultural and Horticultural Census showed that 15,000 farming jobs were lost in England in the year to June. Figures for Scotland and Wales remain to be published. The census found that 8,600 farmers abandoned farming and another 6,600 farm workers' jobs were lost.