Fresh produce supply chain still plagued by problems

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
16 November 2015

Farmers still face a “battlefield” in their commercial relationships with supermarkets, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned.

In a review, Catalyst Revisited, published to mark three years since the release of its Catalyst for Change report, the NFU said there had been progress by retailers but “the job is far from done”, with positive developments “the exception, rather than the rule”.

The organisation highlighted discount retailer Aldi signing its ‘Fruit and Veg pledge’ this summer, and the introduction of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to help curb abuses. But, it added, all the recommendations it set out in 2012 still applied today.

It also cautioned the problems that “plague” growers in the supply chain could force them to reduce the amount they produce.

Guy Poskitt, chairman of the NFU’s horticulture board, said: “The supply chain now faces a choice. Growers have the choice to grow less produce to manage their exposure to risk; retailers have the choice to do things differently, and we’d like them to choose to pledge their longer term commitment to British horticulture by signing up to the NFU’s Fruit and Veg pledge and be part of the sector’s success as it fulfils its great, and growing, potential.”

The NFU said there had been mixed progress on contracts. While some retailers and processors are looking to provide longer-term deals for suppliers, in some cases “there has been more talk then action”, and the need to move away from a short term approach remains a priority.

The study found the UK is 58 per cent self-sufficient in vegetable production, but only 11 per cent for fruit. These are falls of 3.3 per cent and 1 per cent respectively since 2010.

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