Crime time down on the farm

19.10.16: THE END of farming price subsidies in Britain has had two predictable results.

First, in a highly competitive market, the strong have swallowed the weak, and farms have become larger and more mechanised. Most have diversified into industrial crops such as oil seed and coppice wood.

Second, there has been a swing towards the kind of regional 'premium' products that were once the preserve of the organic movement: cheeses, speciality meats, fruit and vegetables, all bearing certificates of origin like estate-bottled wines.

Fraud has also been rife. In June, a Newmarket cheese-maker was fined for repackaging wedges of factory-produced Stilton as Cottenham cheese from Cambridgeshire.

In September, an apple-grower in Kent was jailed for passing off his cold-stored Coxes as Ashmead's Kernels.

Some criminal gangs grown fat on computer fraud are turning to agricultural produce, and several police authorities have set up specialist farm squads.

'The temptation for criminals is enormous,' said Friends of the Future food campaigner Sheila Greenfield. 'Consumers like the idea of premium foods but, frankly, most of them can't tell the difference. Unscrupulous dealers just change the label and double the price.' RG