NatWest to provide financial support to McCain potato farmers switching to regenerative agriculture practices

Frozen potato giant McCain Foods and NatWest have joined forces to reduce financial barriers for potato farmers transitioning to sustainable agricultural practices.

Switching to greener techniques often requires up-front investments in new equipment and practices from farmers, which can create a barrier to uptake.

So, through its asset finance arm Lombard, NatWest will offer financial support to McCain potato farmers. In addition, McCain has committed to contributing to the interest payable for assets that support regenerative agriculture practices.

The move is part of McCain’s commitment to implement regenerative agriculture across 100 per cent of its global potato acreage by 2030. The company is the UK’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products.

“Given the increasingly unpredictable climate, the shift towards regenerative agriculture practices is vital to futureproof the farming industry, and we want to support McCain potato farmers who are making the transition towards more sustainable operations,” said James Young, vice president of agriculture at McCain GB&I.

“We know that switching to regenerative agriculture can come with financial implications, and this new partnership will be a part of the effort to alleviate those barriers.

“We are working with our growers, customers and key stakeholders to ensure the long-term viability of potato growing in the UK.”

Ian Burrow, head of agriculture at NatWest, added: “NatWest and Lombard are thrilled to be working with McCain to help their farmers invest in sustainable farming practices. Agriculture is a sector of paramount importance to the UK economy, and one which is at a turning point, facing higher costs, inflation, and the daunting challenge of net zero.

“This partnership further enhances the aims and ambitions of the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) taskforce [launched by the World Economic Forum in 2020], which NatWest is proud to be a part of. We will continue to stand by farmers and work closely with influential partners, like McCain, to help drive change across the industry.”

Regenerative agriculture is an ecosystem-based approach to farming that aims to improve farmer resilience, yield, and quality by restoring soil health, enhancing biodiversity, and reducing the impact of synthetic inputs.

As part of its wider regenerative agriculture initiatives, McCain joined the SMI’s Agribusiness Task Force alongside a number of businesses and NGOs to accelerate the scaling of greener practices in the farming industry worldwide, which have been hampered by high costs.

McCain is also helping to make regenerative agriculture economically viable for UK farmers. Other initiatives include grants for cover crop seed and fully funding soil health assessments, as well as offering free pollinator seed this spring.

McCain is working hard to ensure the long-term viability of potato growing in the UK and has invested £50 million since 2020.

As part of this, in 2020, McCain launched the McCain Potato Farmer Pledge, a £25 million investment designed to help ensure the long-term sustainability of British agriculture in the face of increasing climatic events such as droughts and floods.

In addition to the partnership with NatWest, McCain is continuing to support farmers in the face of rising inflation by committing to a 31 per cent contract indexation in 2023, which amounts to a £35 million investment.

To enable knowledge transfer to its farmers, McCain is testing regenerative agriculture practices and trialing new technology at its Farms of the Future projects, located in McCain’s hometown of Florenceville in Canada, as well as in South Africa. This is supported in the UK by three demonstration farms across the country.