Ethical Food Boom May Benefit UK Farming - Waitrose
Esom told the National Farmers Union annual conference that retailers should offer long-term commitments and encourage farmers to provide food that would appeal to ethical consumers.
He said the future of farming in Britain was to supply "differentiated produce - be it local, organic, seasonal or food with high animal welfare and environmental standards" in partnership with food retailers.
"I think there's a real argument for using customers' enthusiasm for ethically traded products by extending these principles to domestic farming more generally, not just to the developing world," he said.
Britain has seen a huge surge in demand for ethically traded products.
The Fairtrade Foundation, which provides a consumer label to guarantee disadvantaged farmers in the developing world get a better deal, has seen sales more than double since 2004 to a level of about 300 million pounds (US$589.7 million) in the UK.
"Although the grocery industry has seen some sterling examples of best practice in recent years, we still have a situation where many primary producers face a climate of fear, where honesty and fairness are poorly evident," Esom said.
Waitrose is part of the John Lewis Partnership.
Many British farmers have expressed concerns about alleged abuses of market power by Britain's major supermarket chains.
Last year Britain's competition watchdog launched an investigation into supermarket power.
"One thing is certain: a viable thriving and diversified farming sector, once lost, will be lost forever," Esom said.