The government needs to make sure that supermarkets do not use the cost-of-living crisis to impose unfair food prices on farmers, ministers have been told.

Conservative MP Chris Loder for West Dorset asked in the House of Commons on Thursday (April 28) what ministers are doing to give the supermarket ombudsman “more teeth” to ensure supermarkets “do not inappropriately take advantage of the difficulties that we see with food prices” when it comes to the prices farmers receive, write Ben Hatton and David Lynch, PA political staff.

Elsewhere during the session of Defra questions, a number of MPs also warned about the growing cost pressures on farmers, warning the cost of feed, fuel, fertiliser, energy and wages are all rising.

Mr Loder asked the Secretary of State: “What is he doing to give the grocery adjudicator some more teeth to make sure that supermarkets do not inappropriately take advantage of the difficulties that we see with food prices?

“Because as he will well know, a lot of farmers face great pressure from supermarkets and some would argue that they (supermarkets) actually control the prices that farmers get, when that is not really how it should be.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice replied: “The supermarket adjudicator in recent years had made good progress to bring transparency to the way relationships work between supplies and the supermarkets, but in addition to that through the Agriculture Act, we have introduced new powers so that in future we will be able to regulate and improve the transparency and fairness of contracts between farmers and processors.”

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Labour shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon called on the government to “urgently convene a cross-government summit with the food industry, devolved and local government, and charities to finally get ahead of this crisis”.

Mr Eustice said that he had “already had many such meetings with the food industry”.

Liberal Democrat MP Helen Morgan said: “I have been contacted by several farmers in my constituency of North Shropshire explaining that because fertiliser and fuel costs are rocketing so quickly they may not be able to afford to plant for next season.”

She said “now is the time to reverse the cut to the basic farm payment schemes to help our farmers survive this crisis”.

The government has said it will be phasing out the rural grant payments in England, with progressive reductions to 2027.

Environment minister Jo Churchill said “that is too much of a blunt instrument”, adding: “We are supporting all farmers and actually that’s why the fertiliser taskforce is so important and why the work across government keeping an eye on the situation, making sure that we’re supporting correctly, is so important.”

SNP MP Dave Doogan (Angus) said: “Input costs into agriculture are at a tremendous high – feed, fuel, fertiliser, energy and wages.

"On that last point, the Home Office’s pernicious surcharge on growers of £10.10 per hour has got no basis in reality.”

Mr Eustice said: “We wanted to give the industry access to labour, but not access to cheap labour, and that’s why we followed the recommendation of the migration advisory committee to have a slightly higher minimum wage for those coming in under the scheme.”