Blog: Tough times for horticulture and potatoes

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Guy Poskitt_275_413

He writes:

Alongside our neighbours in the dairy, livestock and other farming sectors, horticulture and potato growers are facing worryingly tough times. Supermarket price wars are showing no signs of easing and growers across the whole of horticulture and potatoes are facing significant downward price pressures. In fact, many growers I’ve spoken to recently have been saying they cannot remember a more difficult time.

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It shouldn’t be like this. Some of the poorest practices highlighted in our Catalyst for Change report three years ago have been stamped out by the Groceries Code Adjudicator, and trading practices are gradually becoming more transparent. But this progress is being undermined by short term, price focussed buying decisions and growers are finding themselves in a position where thoughts of reducing volatility are a long way off.

It is a major concern for the NFU that unless this volatility is controlled and growers receive sustainable margins, we will continue to see growers exiting horticulture and production moving abroad.

Couple this with the introduction of the National Living Wage, which will add significant cost to growers’ businesses, the ongoing Russian trade ban and the weak Euro, then our competitiveness against imports suffers. UK consumers want British produce, but not at any price, so we must be able to operate on a level playing field and attract a suitable margin that allows us to invest.

Supply and demand plays its part, of course it does. Just look at potatoes last year when the price hit the floor after growers saw bumper yields at the same time that consumption fell. But why is it that prices are so quick to fall in times of plenty but rises are resisted at other times?

This is a tough industry, perhaps more so now than ever. That is why the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes board is driving forward its 5-year growth strategy to tackle the challenges holding back the sector and to increase overall demand for British-grown produce and plants.

We’re currently very busy meeting NFU members to get under the skin of the sector’s key issues and we’ll be reporting on our findings in the autumn.We’re also forging some strong relationships with key stakeholders in the ‘healthy eating’ landscape to try and drive home the vitally important role that fruit and vegetables have in improving the nation’s health and cutting the NHS budget.

There are both commercial and moral imperatives for the whole supply chain to work together to get consumption of fruit and veg up.Then we can drive demand and start to put the value back into our crops.