Wholesale markets are a great place to do business, yet they are generally not on the radar of British growers, says CGTA chair

Gary Marshall speaking at Festival of Fresh 2022

Gary Marshall speaking at Festival of Fresh 2022

Image: Yves Salmon

Wholesale markets are where British growers can get real value for their fruits and vegetables, yet they are largely ignored by UK producers.

That was the message to delegates of FPJ’s Festival of Fresh from Gary Marshall, managing director of Bevington Salads and chairman of the Covent Garden Tenants Association at New Covent Garden Market.

He told delegates that UK wholesale markets are a great place to do business, yet they are largely not on the radar of British growers – an oversight he later described as “not just a shame, but shameful”.

“I understand that UK growers want a guaranteed price for their produce and that there is a risk in selling to markets,” he said. “But the fact is, you are going to get a good return from us if you give us the best produce. The growers who are getting the most out of Britain’s wholesale markets are foreign growers.”

On the retail side, meanwhile, Asda revealed it is investing more in domestic fresh produce sourcing. “We’ve made a conscious effort to celebrate where our produce is British-sourced,” said Rowena White, a long-standing senior buying manager at the retailer.

“We have made a more concerted effort to be loud and proud on Britishness, even if the customers don’t always understand seasonality.”

Speaking at Festival of Fresh, White and Dominic Edwards of IPL/Asda also laid bare the size of challenge that cost inflation will represent for many in the UK fresh produce business during the coming 12 months.

“Our margins are really under pressure,” said Edwards. “Our cost inflation is a lot higher than our retail inflation. We’re not passing that inflation on. It’s an extremely competitive marketplace, with little room for retailers to go up [in price].”