'Fearful' growers may have to cut production - NFU

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Martyn Fisher

BY MARTYN FISHER

'Fearful' growers may have to cut production - NFU

Farmers' union updates Catalyst for Change report, warning that many of the problems outlined still persist

Serious problems continue to plague the fresh produce supply chain, which may force growers to reduce the amount they produce.

That is the view expressed in Catalyst Revisited, an update to the NFU’s Catalyst for Change report, launched three years ago, which highlighted a culture of poor practice in the fresh produce supply chain and set a blueprint for best practice.

Speaking at The UK Onion and Carrot Conference yesterday (5 November), roots grower and chairman of the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes board Guy Poskitt said that although progress has been made against the report’s initial recommendations in 2012, growers face a culture of intense price pressure and competition for market share.

He added: “A lot of progress has been made since we launched Catalyst for Change three years ago; Aldi has become the first retailer to endorse the NFU’s Fruit and Veg Pledge – our charter for best practice in the supply chain; there are some encouraging signals from other retailers seeking a longer-term deal with suppliers; and the Groceries Code Adjudicator is proving effective in curbing abuses of the Groceries Supply Code of Practice.

“Yet, the job is far from done. Growers are fearful that, under intense price pressure and competition for market share, retailers are regressing to short-term thinking. All of the recommendations we made in 2012 still apply today – and are captured by our Fruit and Veg Pledge.”

In Poskitt and the NFU’s eyes, growers have the choice to grow less produce to manage their exposure to risk, and retailers have the choice to do things differently. The NFU is eager to see the latter group choose to pledge their longer-term commitment to British horticulture by signing up to its Fruit and Veg Pledge.

Catalyst Revisited also highlights how the UK is 58 per cent self-sufficient in veg production, a fall of 3.3 per cent since 2010, and 11 per cent self-sufficient in fruit production, a fall of one per cent since 2010.

The value of field vegetable production has fallen by 14 per cent to £885 million since 2010, according to the report; the largest drop in value occurred in the last year; in 2013, meanwhile, the total area of land used for growing outdoor vegetables fell by 7,000ha. Added to that, imports of fruit and vegetables to the UK were 18 times higher than the volume of exports in 2014. 

Last year, more than 40 per cent of Aldi’s fresh produce was British, ahead of the industry average of about 35 per cent.

Catalyst Revisited

The NFU has updated its Catalyst for Change report for 2015

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